Clash of Hexennacht:Volume1 Chapter 11
Chapter 11: And Now Some Rest
“Okay, time for an on-scene report from Miss Horinouchi.”
When she heard the headmaster saying she would determine the outcome of Kagami and Hunter’s match, Horinouchi opened a spell circle.
The communications screen displayed the headmaster smiling with her office in the background.
Despite the intense battle overhead, the window visible in the office did not even have its defense barrier closed.
Even during a battle between rankers, this woman had the skill to respond to any emergency. In fact, she was one of those who had fought to the very end to earn the right to participate in the previous Hexennacht. In terms of the ranker system, she was the same as the current top three. And…
…I’ve heard she was the one who fought with my mother until the very end.
The wielder of that much power spoke to her through the screen.
Horinouchi had not taken part in this battle, so this meant little to her. However, it was a very meaningful intercession for the ones above the Fuji Sea of Trees and above Hawaii.
“Miss Kagami has yet to officially join our school and we have yet to resolve the issue of Miss Horinouchi’s rank.”
“Miss Hunter, you were trying to push away these two lower ranked girls, weren’t you?”
“Yeah, I was,” said Hunter. “It’s about time for the top three to be fighting amongst ourselves, so it would be trouble if we were attacked by the 4th ranked representative of the general division or someone even lower.”
“I see. That makes sense.”
Horinouchi asked without thinking.
“Are you rejecting the ranker system!? As long as we’re in the combat range of each other’s rank, we can challenge each other in the hopes of building ourselves up further. Isn’t that the entire point of the ranker system!?”
“Yes, but I also understand Miss Hunter’s point. Interference from an outsider would only get in the way this late in the game.”
The headmaster was clearly looking at Horinouchi when she continued.
“So how about this? I will officially accept Miss Kagami into our school.”
In her spell circle, Kagami placed a hand on her chin while wearing her broken Magino Form.
“No entrance exam? So are you accepting me based on my special talent?”
“You have already shown me more than enough special talent,” said the headmaster with a smile. “The previous battle between Miss Kagami and Miss Horinouchi was never resolved. That leaves you both with a temporary rank of 4, so I think I’ll treat you two as a unit.”
“And as a unit…you are to battle Miss Hunter.”
This was an order from the headmaster, so she has no choice but to obey.
…I’m so pathetic.
She thought that because rejecting the headmaster’s command would most likely place Kagami at #4 and drop her down to #5.
If she really did not want this, she only had to take that option, but she did not.
She had a number of thoughts as to why, but when she summed them all up…
If she ran away here, she would fail to live up to her pride and she would lose to herself. So…
“Headmaster,” she asked a question with the intention to accept everything about this situation. “What happens if we lose?”
Hunter released a shallow breath.
…She intends to do it?
There was a reason she felt so much disappointment.
…She doesn’t get why I picked a fight with them.
This was a problem. Especially because she was putting a burden on her team in the States. But…
“What happens if you lose?” The headmaster smiled. “If that happens, how about we keep your ranks the same but remove your right to challenge a higher ranker?”
Hunter reflexively replied to Horinouchi’s voice.
“Yeah! That’s perfect!”
She expressed her agreement.
“That would mean challenging these lower rankers meant something after all!”
Hunter agreed with the headmaster’s suggestion.
She would “stop” Horinouchi and Kagami here.
She would not allow them to interfere with the three ranked above them.
That was what she wanted.
“I’m counting on this.”
She had gone out of her way to challenge them because she had wanted to compare their power.
Her Hedgehog was backed by the full power of America.
Horinouchi’s Akerindou was backed by Japan’s Shinto and a powerful conglomerate.
And Dikai-whatever had been produced by the mysterious but powerful intruder named Kagami.
It had been immediately obvious which of those was the most powerful as a “fighting force”.
It came down to firepower, armor, and mobility.
Her Hedgehog outdid the other two Frames in all three categories. It was true they might get creative in their attempt to oppose her, but…
…Winning a fight without getting creative is where true strength lies.
Akerindou had excellent long-range attack power, but it barely had any armor.
Dikai-whatever was most likely the close-range type, but she had already proven she could break its armor.
She had escaped this one unscathed and she had seen what her opponents had to offer.
They could not keep up with her swing-by movement spell, so she could unilaterally attack them and end the battle.
That was what she had just done.
Horinouchi intended to accept the challenge.
Hunter had honestly thought the girl would back down after seeing their difference in strength.
Had Hunter been too conceited?
Or did Horinouchi have a reason not to back down?
She hoped it was the former because she knew an opponent driven by a reason was much more fixated on victory.
She had crushed several enemies like that already. She had literally crushed them.
They had all sworn to challenge her to a rematch, but they had never reached her.
…I climbed the ranks so fast they couldn’t catch up.
The ranks were determined both by who one defeated and by one’s win percentage.
Even if they had defeated a top ranker, it was assumed someone with a low win percentage had a poor chance of winning on Hexennacht. And there were a lot who were undefeated, so their overall rank advancement would be slow.
The top rankers were witches who had not gotten caught up in that.
They were generally undefeated.
Their number of battles and win percentage were more than enough to fill the top three spots and they had actually taken those spots by pushing aside those who had previously held them.
Horinouchi had done the same. Those in the fifth and sixth spots had probably been similar.
Loss was a foreign concept to them.
That was why Horinouchi’s “draw” the other day had been so shocking.
They never considered it a possibility for themselves, but damage or injury now was dangerous. After all, Hexennacht was approaching. It was time to select who would take part.
Even if they won an unexpected ranker battle, they could still be damaged enough that they could not take part in Hexennacht.
That girl had to have considered that kind of problem, but she still had a reason to fight.
She had a reason why she could not back down, so…
This far from Japan, the sky was already dyed in the colors of night.
Hunter spoke with the light of the moon washing over her.
“You can challenge me as a unit if you want. I have a partner too: the full power of America and the technology developed to oppose the Black Witch.”
That was far greater than a unit.
Fighting alongside her was the surviving military strength of a superpower once known as the world police. And…
…The people backing me mean even more than that.
“So,” she said. “So there’s no way I can lose.”
Horinouchi noticed the communication line from Hunter had ended.
She sighed and so did the headmaster in her spell circle.
“I don’t envy Miss Hunter.”
“Yes,” said the headmaster. “Removing her Frame near Hawaii means she’ll have a hard time getting back.”
“Won’t the US army help?”
“But if a warship approaches here, Lisbeth will be pissed and say I failed to manage our forces.”
Horinouchi could only reply with an “oh, I see”, but a sudden voice called out to her.
“Oh, no! Lady Mitsuru, we will send out a helicopter immediately!”
It was Koutarou as he ran down the pier toward the parking lot.
“We must pick up Lady Kagami!”
…Now that you mention it.
This was not good. She had been worried about Kagami when she had been hit, but due to the girl’s character, she had completely forgotten about her afterwards.
But damage to the Frame was fed back to the Phlogiston Heart of its user. If she had been hit with that much damage at once…
“Oh, sorry. I just overheard your butler saying he would come get me.”
The communications spell circle had no video. It was only Kagami’s voice. And…
“I had expected an impressive dinner at your place, but…”
Was Kagami bringing up that everyday topic to avoid mentioning something?
…Was she injured?
Horinouchi’s worries were answered by a voice.
“To be honest, I have not had a bite to eat since I got here.”
“Th-there wasn’t anything for you this morning!?”
She looked over to the headmaster’s communication spell circle and saw the video had been replaced with the text “I forgot about that”.
“H-how many times am I going to have to tell you not to call me that!?”
“You mean you would prefer Miss Manko?”
That isn’t what I meant!
A strange smile appeared on the corner of her mouth, but she managed to control her heart.
“Koutarou is on his way there.”
“Lady Mitsuru! Not yet! I’m not on my way yet! The car was flipped over!”
For some reason, hearing that made her feel better.
She had no choice but to call U.A.H.J. and have them pick up Koutarou first.
In the end, Hunter did not get back until midnight.
She used her swing-by method for part of the way, but there had not been a carrier in satellite orbit for the rest of the way. She had switched to her Normal Frame and joined the seventh fleet that had supported her during the battle.
On the ship, she had been celebrated for her results, but the male soldiers had treated her like a mascot. The witches working with the fleet had all been older, so they had worried for her like mothers.
They had asked her what she wanted to eat, but she had politely rejected the offer.
“I have lessons tomorrow too.”
That seemed to be enough for them to understand her situation and mental state. They prepared an insulated bag stuffed with American snacks, ready-made meals, and other foods.
“When you have a break, I hope we can have a barbecue on the coast or something.”
Just as she said “thanks”, word arrived that the airplane was ready.
A few American military bases were still active even in Japan. There still was not much at Yokosuka because the reconstruction of Kantou had been focused on Yokohama. Yokota only had communications equipment and a heliport left after the events of ten years ago.
“I’ll ride with one going to Atsugi.”
“You sure you want to ride on top?”
“I have to hop off partway through to get back to school.”
“You sure are a diligent student.”
After that exchange, she climbed on top of the plane carrying the data recorded during the battle and began the return trip.
She loved the sky.
She had always looked up at it in the past.
She still did that, but the moon was in the way. She also loved the blue sky.
On America’s west coast, she had looked to the sky and listened to the waves.
Palm trees and rows of white houses had covered the coast.
But the many hills had made a motorcycle indispensable.
Whether in the sea or on a tall hill, she had been able to see the blue sky. It had only taken a short walk from the rows of white houses to see it from either of those places.
She did not think the blue sky had changed in the last ten years, but she knew of a difference.
There was a clear difference in the “sky”.
It was currently night and the sky felt cold.
That was only natural since the moonlit sky of night was the sky of the Black Witch. But…
“I won’t forgive you for contaminating the blue sky as well.”
She saw the lights of Yokohama just before midnight. She gave the plane’s canopy a light tap and dove off. The plane lit its afterburners to say goodbye in the darkness. In midair, she checked a spell circle to make sure everything was arranged for her to legally enter the country.
The confirmation program displayed the emblem of the Horinouchi family, but that may have been because Shinto was in charge of detecting those trespassing on Japanese land. If so…
…Kagami apparently slipped past that check when she showed up.
What kind of opponent had she been? Would they face each other again in a rematch?
She did not know.
Before long, she was back at the school.
“As usual, no one’s sleeping.”
The special equipment division of Shihouin Academy had light in most of its windows and light coming from the rooftop. She clearly saw the flickering of a bonfire, so an African witch was probably doing something there.
When her schoolmates noticed her from the rooftop, they whistled and cast a welcoming divine protection on her.
She kicked off the wall to climb to the rooftop as well.
“What, are we having a party? I brought some food.”
“Ahh, we’re far too drunk to taste it, so that’d be a waste.”
The witches of her year and her underclassmen raised their hands in agreement while sitting around the fire.
“You had a hell of a win in that battle.”
“That was just one of the two, though. And…”
A spell circle had appeared next to her face earlier.
“Horinouchi is temporarily being held at rank 4 and she sent me a request for an official ranker battle.”
It’s set for tomorrow. No, I guess at this point that’s early morning today.
She did not even have five hours to spare. Horinouchi probably did not want her to recover from her exhaustion, but…
A witch from Italy passed her a plate of chicken.
“It was cooked over the fire with an herb spell to remove your weariness and apply a divine protection of luck.”
“Hey, do we have space for Hunter to sleep today?”
“The seventh workshop is being used to build a spell clock, so she should be able to sleep there if she closes the blinds.”
“Then that’s where she’ll sleep.”
It was amazing how quickly they all settled that.
They had found a place for her without disturbing their own pace.
Feeling like she had returned to her current home, Hunter sat down and bit into the chicken.
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