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The h.e.l.l is thiiis!?
Point Allocation (Adult)
Students equipped for ship-top combat and people carrying and managing several lernen figurs walked every which way through the ship's corridor.
Within all that, Tadaoki faced Nabeshima and some of the girls from the maintenance team she led.
He knew Nabeshima.
In M.H.R.R., the name inheritors and name inheritor candidates from a generation were told to attend academies as close together as possible and, unless they were from a feudal lord family or something similar, their entire family was moved with them.
His family had moved to the district where Nabeshima's group lived.
Nabeshima's high school was right next to his middle school and graduates of his middle school usually attended that high school.
Their homes were also close by. Nabeshima's group was well known in the shopping district around the carriage station's free market block. Since all their parents knew each other, he had been dragged along to karaoke or potato soup parties with them, so he had learned a lot about being a name inheritor from them before he had inherited his name.
They were now facing each other below the corridor's lights. The crowd was moving almost entirely one way to their right and the other way to their left. Someone would occasionally carry a long table out of the gym, so they made sure to be on the lookout for that as they spoke.
"Nagaoka, are you joining the raid as a sniper?"
"What about you? Are you doing anti-air above Satomi?"
"No, I'll be on standby halfway across the bay. …But if Kiyomasa was coming here, I would've done everything I could to be under her command."
"How can you support her so much when you've never even met her before?"
"Because I want to." Nabeshima placed a hand on her cheek. "And I have met her. On the way back to Kyushu after the meeting in Kyoto, I helped guard the supplies Hashiba was sending west. And she thanked me when I left."
"Wouldn't it be the fleet commander who thanked you?"
"Shut up." She sharply narrowed her eyes. "I'm piloting a mechanical dragon now, but I was originally a spear-fighter. She's just so cool, you know? She's a European beauty, she has a great figure, she can command so many troops on the front line, and she won't back down even against G.o.ds of war. I'm in a mechanical dragon, but even I get nervous against G.o.ds of war."
"Is that so?" said Tadaoki. "But I'd heard that Kiyomasa and f.u.kushima are dating now."
"Um, Takenaksama? Do you know where f.u.kushimsama is? I've been looking for her to help heal her wounds."
"Oh, she went to take a bath while muttering something about clearing her mind."
"Kiyomasa, if you're headed to the bath, keep in mind that Katagiri was headed there too."
"Oh, dear. …He's going to have to share again. Anyway, I can cleanse her wounds in the bath, so I think I will join her."
"You two sure get along well."
"Testament. Just like in the Testament, we seem to be a good match."
"Do you like her, Kiyomasa?"
"Testament. Of course I do. I like you too, Hachisuksama."
"Not like that. I meant- you know what? Never mind."
"That just makes it even better. f.u.kushima tends to act alone, but her combat records are impressive and seeing those two together is both beautiful and rea.s.suring. If Kiyomasa has chosen her, then I wish them the very best."
"I don't get it…"
Just as Tadaoki said that, a girl behind Nabeshima called out to her.
She was one of the girls from the maintenance team. Tadaoki was unsure if she was the same age as Nabeshima. He had trouble telling how old older girls were.
But that aside…
"Nabe-san! Is that the kid!? The one you're talking to now!?"
He really wished she would not turn around and create her own little world talking about him. Besides…
"I'm not a kid! I'm only two years younger."
"That doesn't mean squat. We could've strangled you the moment you were born."
"And I could've fired a gun the moment I was born, dammit."
"So you say," said Nabeshima with a bitter smile.
The girls behind her circled around to surround him.
…They're so tall.
In his middle school cla.s.s, he was far from the tallest, but he was still above average.
But these girls were in high school and their heels gave them extra height.
He felt surrounded by girls in all three dimensions.
"Nabe-san! This kid's uniform is the one for your old middle school, right?"
"Yeah, they changed the design when a bunch of girls joined last year, so the collar is different from when I went there. The color's still gray though, so I guess he must be an apprentice."
"He might be an apprentice, but he's a name inheritor, right!?"
That's right, thought Tadaoki with a glare. Please let this end soon. And then…
"He's so cute!"
Tadaoki was a little disturbed by their sudden outburst.
…How am I cute!?
His height? His age? His uniform? Or to sum it all up…
"There are plenty of other middle school name inheritors, aren't there?"
When a name inheritor arrived from another nation, if their language or history education was too poor, they would have to start back at middle school.
…Those old guys are middle school name inheritors too, but you wouldn't call them cute, would you? Would you!?
He could easily imagine the girls cheerfully calling them creeps, so he mentally held his head in his hands.
…I'm no good with this kind of person.
He knew they were not serious and it was a natural way to maintain an enjoyable atmosphere.
It was harmless, but that just made it all the more frustrating.
The next thing he knew, they were rubbing his head and checking the shoulders and sides of his clothing.
Giving up so quickly and failing to react had been a mistake.
He could tell they were starting to treat him like a toy, so he looked to Nabeshima.
"Hey, do something about this."
"Eh, it'll be over soon enough."
Just as he frowned, the girl checking around his waist spoke up.
"There, we have your measurements. …Sorry, was that annoying?"
She rubbed his head, but the way she did it…
…Is she measuring my height?
"Figured it out now?" Nabeshima shook her shoulders a bit. "You arrived with the sniper equipment you use at your middle school, didn't you? When Asano saw that, she said it wasn't generic enough."
"You might have to fight back-to-back battles, right?"
When he heard that, Tadaoki uttered an "oh" of realization. One of the girls nodded in response.
"Tes, tes. We went over the mission in the meeting, but all that is subject to change and you have to think about what you'll do in transit and after the mission is over."
"That's right. It's pretty common to not have a ship to transport you or to be missing some equipment."
"That middle school sniper equipment is M.H.R.R. exclusive and meant for you, but if you use more generic equipment, you can always borrow someone else's."
When she added an "okay?", Tadaoki felt a chill in his heart. He was wrong to have been thinking about pushing these girls away. Instead…
"Thank you very much."
He bowed his head. The surrounding girls gasped, and then…
"Oh, this kid is just so cute!"
"He's way better behaved than my little brother!"
…Please no more…!
Oh, he realized. When Musashi's Chancellor had asked him what he liked about the woman who would be his wife, he had not known what to say. But now he did.
She was so calm and relaxed.
Nabeshima thought to herself while watching her cla.s.smates play with Nagaoka.
…He takes this all so seriously.
He had a few different ideas circling through his head and he always tried to choose the best one.
She had seen some of that behavior before, but now she was certain of it.
When he was surrounded like this, he would normally try to push everyone away.
It probably helped that these were his uppercla.s.smen, but once he realized what they were doing, he had decided to thank them instead.
He looked to the future when considering what he should do and he also knew when to change his plans.
Among Nabeshima's friends, Asano was the type to look to the future and Kani was a little too good at changing her plans on the fly. Ikeda struck a nice balance between the two, but it did not seem as refreshing with him since she knew him a little too well. And it was kind of pathetic how obvious he made it that he disliked having to do it.
Striking a nice balance while being polite was a good thing for an undercla.s.sman.
Nabeshima watched Nagaoka while realizing that he would fit right in as "Nagaoka Tadaoki" once he built up some skill. He looked to the future and knew when to change plans, but…
…That must make him a natural sniper.
But, she thought.
If he knows how to look to the future, why did he try to board the Musashi?
It makes no sense, decided Nabeshima.
She could not think of anything he stood to gain by boarding the Musashi and causing a scene like that.
Well, he might have been trying to make a name for himself and maybe he really thought he damage them.
He was a middle school name inheritor, so most people would a.s.sume he just did something rash. But she knew Nagaoka better than that.
He would not do something so foolish.
Even if he did get it in his head to do something dumb, he had no experience and would not have known what to do.
So why had he gone somewhere he had no experience with?
…Then again, maybe that explains it.
According to the Testament, the Seven Generals ultimately sided with Matsudaira. She did not know what decision they would make in this life, but it was something they had to remember for the history recreation.
It was possible he had gone to take a look in preparation for that. And…
"Nagaoka, what were you doing at Musashi?"
She tried asking.
She honestly did not like being weirdly suspicious of a friend. Investigations were a job for the Public Morals Committee and Liaison Committee, so if they were doing their jobs, he would be clean. That meant she could ask this without worrying.
Nagaoka turned toward her with a big frown on his face.
"Huh? What was I doing? I was picking a fight with Musashi."
"And what were you trying to accomplish with that?"
"I didn't accomplish anything."
She felt like that line held some kind of meaning.
She did not think he was lying. He was speaking to her, but his tone had fallen.
Instead of trying to dodge the issue, he was simply disappointed.
…I don't get it.
After all, it was partially her fault he had not accomplished anything.
So she addressed that.
"Sorry about getting in your way back there."
He immediately replied while looking weakly up at her.
"Yeah, well, you couldn't help that. Don't worry about it."
He did not seem to be lying.
She only sensed disappointment and regret in his voice. It was obvious things had not gone the way he had hoped.
But she did have a question about his response.
According to him, he had hoped to accomplish something at Musashi but he had failed to do so.
It was possible her appearance had prevented him from accomplishing whatever it was. That was why she had apologized for getting in his way.
And he had responded with disappointment and regret.
That was all sensible enough. She had indeed gotten in his way back there.
However, that was all predicated on the a.s.sumption that he had acted rashly.
But Nagaoka was the type to look ahead before acting.
Was it really worth looking to the future and then feeling disappointed over a rash attack like that?
Of course not.
If he had truly just gotten carried away there, Nagaoka would have seen the result of his actions through the lens of several different patterns and he would have learned his lesson.
He would have thanked her for interrupting and stopping him, so would he really feel disappointed?
That meant he had been trying to accomplish something there that was worth feeling disappointed over when he was interrupted.
He had looked ahead to the future and decided to accomplish something there, but she had gotten in his way.
Why had that boy gone to Musashi?
Had he been trying to join Matsudaira like she had briefly suspected earlier?
No. He had only just inherited his name. Even if he was looking to the future, he lacked the experience needed as a foundation for looking that far ahead. Trying to switch sides now would be rash indeed.
Then he must have been focused on something more immediate.
Could it be? wondered Nabeshima.
"Is it the Lady Nagaoka incident?
Tadaoki noticed a change in the surrounding atmosphere.
But he was not the first to notice. The girls all turned toward Nabeshima.
When he heard their questioning tone, he realized Nabeshima had put up her guard.
…Well, it's not like I had a chance.
He was an inexperienced middle schooler. He must have made a mistake somewhere between Musashi and here. Plus, Nabeshima knew him better than most.
He could not lie to her and it was pointless to try.
And that may have been why she asked him a question.
"You always try to handle everything on your own, don't you?"
Nabeshima described a trap that diligent people tended to fall into.
She would not be starting a personality quiz right now. He was not sure what she would think when she heard his answer, but if she said anything inconvenient for him, he could just say she was being overly suspicious.
So he was going to say she was right. But…
…That's not accurate.
He could not save his wife alone. He did not even know how to start.
That was why the Musashi Chancellor had told him to leave it to them.
He could not do everything on his own.
He could not lie to Nabeshima, so he answered her truthfully.
"Oh, how mature," said a girl standing to his right.
Her tone was unusually light for this scene, but…
"So you've changed, have you?"
Nabeshima smiled bitterly.
That's just how it is, I guess, thought Nabeshima.
She felt like she understood now.
Nagaoka must have gone to ask Musashi or Mouri for advice about the woman who would be his wife.
There, he had learned he could not do everything on his own.
Of course, she had stopped him before he could do anything.
As a result, he was back here.
Musashi would be going to Nördlingen.
He and everyone else here would be fighting in the Keichou Campaign.
It was all following the original plan.
…Then I can't get after him over it.
Whatever might happen in the future, it was all in the future. Making a fuss or acting suspicious now would accomplish nothing.
She had seen Lady Nagaoka once during their meeting at Kyoto.
…Nagaoka, didn't you get in a fight with her there?
She did not know what had happened.
But she knew something had happened. So…
"Nagaoka, you need to get some rest. This is your first real battle, so you're going to be nervous."
"Testament. I know."
"Do you? Y'know what, Nagaoka?"
"Once you're on the battlefield, make sure you see everything through to the end."
He took things seriously, so she knew he would do that. And after that…
"Once you've done that, you can do whatever it is you want."
With that, she snapped her fingers and turned toward the other girls.
"Okay, let's get going."
She chose to walk straight ahead, which meant entering the flow of traffic to her right.
…She's way too clever!
Tadaoki sighed in the center of the corridor.
Nabeshima looked like the delinquent type and she was a strong leader. Just like she had said, the uppercla.s.sman she most looked up to was Katou Kiyomasa. While the Five Great Peaks gathered focus as individual fighters, Kiyomasa was the ideal when it came to leadership on the battlefield. And true to her admiration of that uppercla.s.sman, Nabeshima had a good eye for people and excellent leadership ability.
It was probably that side of her that had allowed her to take control of the Ryuuzouji clan in what almost felt like a hijacking.
He was pretty sure she had figured out everything he was trying to do.
But even so…
…It's not worth getting scared over.
She had told him to do what he was supposed to do.
It would not be an issue as long as he did that. He needed to hold onto the measurement data the girls had given him and he had to head out onto the battlefield.
"This will be my first time fighting in a major battle…"
Kani, another of his uppercla.s.smen, had fared pretty well in the Siege of Odawara, but…
…She was pretty much born for the battlefield…
What about me? he wondered as he started moving.
For now, he sighed and walked toward the bathroom now that the line was dying down.
Kani had met up with Asano after the meeting, but on her way to the hangar, she heard Tadaoki scream.
"Whooooooooaaaaaaaaaaa!? The h.e.l.l is thiiis!?"
It came from around the corner, which meant the bathrooms.
She tugged on sleepy-looking Asano's hand.
"That was Oky-kun, wasn't it!? Shouldn't he be getting some rest!? I want to get some rest too!"
"You want to get some breast? Kani-sannn, do you want to feel my b.o.o.bs that badlyyy?"
"I'm not sure what you mean, but if you need me to, I will! So, um, what's with Oky-kun!?"
The stir running through the normal students was indeed coming from the bathroom.
What happened!? she wondered while holding up a lernen figur displaying her ID as Kani Saizou's name inheritor.
"Um! Did something happen!?"
"Eh? …Ah! Kani-sama! It's Nagaoka Tadaoki-sama! He, um…!"
"T-testament! I am not at all sure how to say this and I am going to avoid saying anything directly since you are a girl, but Tadaoki-sama is in the bathroom and, um, well, you know what is in there."
"Eh!? What's in there!?"
"Huh!? Oh, m-my apologies. Due to biological differences, the boys and girls bathrooms are structured differently, aren't they!?"
"What he means is." Another student used his hands to form a silhouette with a rounded point at one end. "The boys bathroom has a row of th-these in the back."
"Hmmm? Jizo statuuues?"
"D-doing it on one of those sounds like a good way to get cursed!"
"Oh." Kani realized what the boys meant. "Those ones you use standing up!"
"Y-yes! Correct! But girls should not talk about that! Anyway, boys will enter burst mode while standing in front of those objects, but just as Nagaoksama entered combat mode, he let out a scream."
"Indeed! Then he ran into one of the stalls…you know what stalls are, right?"
"Testament! That's all there are in the girls bathroom!"
"Yes, of course! How silly of me! Now that is some important intel! …Anyway, Nagaoksama did a half-rotation spin while screaming and ran into a stall."
"Annnd? What happened theeen?"
Everyone strained their ears and heard a voice from the back of the bathroom.
"Dammit! It goes all the way to the base!? It must've been that idiot! I am so killing him! Just straight up murdering him!"
"Oky-kun! What's the matter!?"
"Huh!? My d.i.c.k is blac-…no, it's nothing! Is that Kani!?"
…It's just like Oky-kun to recognize my voice even when he's so fl.u.s.tered!
But a stir ran through the gathered crowd.
"Tadaoki-sama is already such an adult at his age!"
"Yeah, that's a name inheritor for you!"
"Hmm, buuut does it really get dark so quickly?"
"Aschan, that sounds like a disease!"
"Stop making jokes about me! …Ah! Dammit! Dammit! What is this!? I thought my skin felt stiff, but it goes all the way up to my stomach!?"
"Hmm." Kani tilted her head because she had no idea what this undercla.s.sman was talking about. "Well, this seems to be increasing everyone's morale, so let's just leave it be!"
"Testament! That's right! Way to go, Nagaoksama!"
Kani nodded along with everyone else.
And she heard Oky's voice from the bathroom.
"Wait, what's this red stuff!? It isn't coming off!!"
"Kimi? About the experimental lipstick my king used on Nagaoka Tadaoki earlier. That was designed for summer use, so it doesn't come off easily."
"Heh heh. Don't be silly. It comes off in hot water, right? Although it still requires some purification cleansing."
"Um…would a boy really know how to use a makeup purification spell?"
"Oh? Don't be silly, Adele. My foolish brother knows how to use three different varieties."
"Oh, then he'll be fine."
"N-no, Toori-kun is a special case! You can't use him as a baseline! And what did you draw on him anyway!?"
Me: "Eh? Just the standard: lips and diagonal cheek blush lines on the tip plus the words 'I love you' on the rest."
Gold Mar: "The standard for what?"
Mar-Ga: "Add a dress and you would have real pervert on your hands. …Not that I can really use this in my doujins."
"I was going to warn you, Asama, but why are you looking away and struggling not to laugh?" asked Kimi.
"Clap!" said Hanami.
Me: "Well, someone on Nagabuto's level will have a private room, so he can take a bath and deal with it. It'll make for a nice change of pace before battle, don't you think?"
Hori-ko: "Yes, letting his hostility boil over in the bath should make for an excellent change of pace."
Soaking in the bath to calm thy feelings is nice, thought f.u.kushima.
…Because feelings make thee soft.
She was thinking of what had happened on Paris's city wall.
She had been too hyper-aware of Kiyomasa's presence.
She knew why: the illusion she had been shown during the battle. In that illusion, she had faced her own fear and inexperience and she had pictured Kiyomasa as the person she always relied on. Also, she had not hesitated to hug her.
This is bad, she thought while throwing her inner suit sleeves into the changing room basket.
…I cannot get my mind off of this!
She was trying not to think about it.
But she saw some light scars on her arms as she removed her skirt. The wounds were healing. Even without a spell charm, they had closed up and the scars were close to disappearing as well. That was just how powerful Kiyomasa's healing spell was.
In a few more days, not even the scars would remain.
She suddenly remembered Kiyomasa on top of the city wall. The girl had looked confused and sad when f.u.kushima had panicked and fled. She was reminded how she had put that look on Kiyomasa's face.
She slammed her forehead against the shelf of baskets.
But Kiyomasa's confused face would not leave her mind.
I should not have done that to her, she thought. She was no longer sure whether she should try not to think about it or try to think about it. Regardless…
…I need to get in the bath to help calm myself down.
She hoped it would work. She removed her hair clip, placed the blue feather on top of it, removed her inner suit, removed her tights, and removed the supporter that a.s.sisted her body in combat.
…Even if the bath does not calm me, I should be back to normal after getting some sleep.
Once she had had some sleep, she could apologize to Kiyomasa for her poor response tonight.
That would make up for everything. Because if she did not do that…
"It would be dangerous."
She wanted to avoid any misunderstandings with such an important partner at this crucial stage.
She really did.
…Besides, if I really do feel that way about Kiyo-
She slammed her forehead against the shelf again.
…I must stay strong.
Everyone knew how understanding Kiyomasa could be. No other member of the Ten Spears earned as high an approval rating when leading normal students. f.u.kushima generally left the other warriors so she could strike as an attacker, but even when Kiyomasa left the other warriors, it was to intercept attacks that would have harmed them.
She was always thinking of others as she acted. That was part of what f.u.kushima found so attractive about-
She slammed her forehead against the shelf yet again.
…I am terrible at this.
Her mouth twisted into a scowl as she grabbed the towel from her basket, placed it over her shoulders, and entered the bath.
f.u.kushima saw the tub through all the steam in the air.
A short figure was there with his back turned.
It was Katagiri.
He was creating an image in the air using Hundred Crest Land Survey. He sent music notes into the target to change its shape. And he was creating…
The transparent figure made of bathwater definitely had a large chest, which reminded f.u.kushima of someone.
…Could it be Kiyo-dono?
That thought filled her gut with something akin to annoyance.
She was not certain that was who it was, but she could not allow Kiyomasa to be defiled here.
Even if she had already defiled her in that illusion.
This is like a reflection of what I did, she realized.
"Katagiri-dono! What are thou doing!?"
Her voice came out louder than she had expected.
Oops, she thought. That harsh tone must be a sign of what I am feeling inside right now.
Nothing was going right for her ever since that moment on the city wall.
And she was worried for Katagiri. He could be timid. In fact, he could be downright servile when it came to Hachisuka. But servile or not, she was afraid she had scared him by raising her voice like that.
When she approached and called out more quietly, he turned around.
He had been crying.