Clash of Hexennacht:Volume1 Chapter 14
Chapter 14: There Lies Justice
When you’ve been hit
Is the perfect time
Hunter saw an arrow strike arriving from straight ahead.
It did not use her opponent’s full power, but it was powerful enough for a direct hit to destroy her armor and stop her charge.
But if she dodged the arrow, she could not get any closer to Horinouchi, so Hunter transformed the Hedgehog from its pile bunker form to its shield form.
She held the armor diagonally so the arrow would hit it.
The action was much like a counterattack blow. She had done so countless times in battle and she had learned it as part of her deflection training, but…
…I’ve never done it while moving forward so quickly or against someone as attack-obsessed as her!
It felt a lot like deflecting a tank shell with a pot lid. The Hedgehog’s thick armor of course gave her some peace of mind, but…
The impact reached her. She had meant to knock it upwards while remaining on a nearly level plane herself, but then the great crashing sound reached her.
…This is really pushing me!
The strike had knocked her down further than she had expected.
The arrow had been worn down by the collision and its impact power had permeated her. Her arm was trembling and her body was about to collapse forward.
She briefly considered following that motion and circling around from below, but…
…The next firing barrier is already up!?
The barrier was probably meant for defense or assistance and a volley spell to attack outside the barrier had already opened at her feet.
If Hunter moved in like before, Horinouchi would make another counterattack, so…
With her body still knocked down a little, Hunter opened a stability spell directly below her chest, but it was not meant for stepping on.
Her right fist struck the “floor” to force her still-sinking body back up.
And by leaving her left arm behind as she moved forward, the Hedgehog was automatically pulled back.
Then a different arrow arrived. It had been fired while the barrier was being created. Hunter could hardly believe anyone could fire such powerful attacks in such quick succession, but that was just the kind of opponent she was up against. She also took issue with how the shot was aimed at the face.
Meanwhile, Hunter opened a stability spell next to her head and used a sideways headbutt to slide her position to the side a little.
The arrow passed right by her cheek and her hair scattered through the wind.
She performed a shield bash, but the Hedgehog had an accelerator on the back. It was meant for flight assistance and became the main thruster for the Magino Frame, but it could also provide acceleration for a physical blow.
“This should be plenty!”
Hunter saw Horinouchi move back and raise her hand.
That defense barrier was made from three arrows and breaking through meant destroying each individual arrow, but…
…You’ve switched to defense, have you!?
“That’s fine with me!”
Hunter threw forward her shield bash.
As soon as it hit, she operated the mount that attached the Hedgehog to her arm. She released the slide rail meant to soften the Hedgehog’s recoil. That meant her body was pulled forward by the recoil, and…
She formed a fist with her right arm’s power hand and used the recoil and her footing to throw a punch.
Light sprayed into the sky and the second arrow was destroyed.
The rest was easy. Resetting the Hedgehog’s slide rail on her left arm would pull the Hedgehog back for another punch.
And if she released the rail again and sent the Hedgehog forward using its accelerator…
“And the pile bunker for three!”
In the instant the third arrow shattered, Horinouchi took action.
She purged the emitter for Akerindou’s ether bowstring from the base of the grip.
…This is Akerindou’s core.
When Akerindou was formed, that bowstring was created as the central coordinate for the motors.
Not only was it the center of the grip, but the bow could not be fired without its string. In fact, as long as she had the ether bowstring, she could just barely create a bow around it.
It was the same as Hunter’s ether stake.
Currently, the ether bowstring vanished from Akerindou. Akerindou would no longer function as a bow, but its motors still worked enough to reinforce the small amount of armor. Its incomplete form had become a shield.
Also, the ether bowstring emitter now produced an ether sword.
By shortening and solidifying the bowstring’s output, it truly did become a sword.
This was her emergency close-quarters weapon and she was properly trained in its usage.
Ahead of her were the fragments of the three arrows she had already fired and an ether stake tearing through the air. Would Hunter continue forward or not? And would Horinouchi’s preparations to counterattack pay off?
…From here on…
As soon as that thought entered Horinouchi’s mind, the ether sword and Akerindou were both destroyed.
This was not right.
Hunter’s attack had yet to reach her.
“You’re too naïve!”
When she heard Hunter’s voice, she noticed the ether light of the three arrows had scattered through the surrounding space.
…Did she permeate her strike through the ether fragments!?
It was the same method she had used to destroy Horinouchi’s barrier before. Hunter’s ether stake was made to penetrate and then permeate its impact throughout whatever it hit. Horinouchi’s arrows did the same, but Hunter would create a “surface” with her stability spell to expand the range of the permeation.
…And that lets her strike cover a wide area of space, doesn’t it!?
That was exactly what happened.
Hunter’s ether stake pierced even deeper through the glowing mist of the three shattered arrows.
The light of acceleration burst from the thruster on the back of Hunter’s Device.
She was seven meters away, which was close range for a witch, and she used the widened range of her pile bunker strike to break the Device that Horinouchi was using as a shield.
Akerindou’s surface broke apart.
The bow form bent down the center and the entire Device broke in two.
Hunter did not overlook this opportunity.
She moved toward Horinouchi’s Akerindou that was not yet fully broken.
As she pulled back the Hedgehog, she made a punch with her right power hand.
Horinouchi’s body was already floating up a bit from the previous blow.
Ether light and a sound of impact burst out and Akerindou’s central wheel was broken along with the armor on the surface.
Horinouchi was knocked away with the broken sword and bow still in her hands.
This sent the girl away, but Hunter was not going to let her escape. She intended to end this here, so she prepared the finishing blow.
She pursued Horinouchi to make another pile bunker strike. Another of those permeating impacts would fully destroy her Frame.
“Prepare pile bunker!”
The ether stake was fully extended, so she pulled it back while running through the air and shouting.
But then a spell circle hopped up from her shoulder. That was a frantic movement from her hedgehog servant and a voice arrived from HQ.
“Representative Hunter! Below you!”
She quickly twisted her body.
She did not know what this was about, but it was some advice from the people monitoring her. She pulled the Hedgehog close as a shield, but she did not slow her forward movement.
That was when she noticed it.
When she looked directly below her, she saw the volley barrier Horinouchi had prepared earlier.
Since it was located below, it had not been caught in the destruction of the three arrows and had thus been abandoned there, but…
…It’s pointing this way!?
The hemispherical barrier was falling apart and scattering, but the destruction was clearly pointing the arrows up toward her.
But what did that matter? The barrier was already destroyed and Horinouchi needed to use her bowstring in quick succession to actually fire the volley. So…
“Don’t tell me…”
Two things seemed off to Hunter.
The first had to do with her earlier charge. Why had Horinouchi used her Three Arrows Shield and focused on defense?
Was it because her attack barrier had gone to waste when Hunter had not escaped downwards?
The second had to do with the arrow Horinouchi had fired toward Hunter’s face earlier.
She understood now.
The three arrows had been a way to keep her from looking down.
The arrow toward the face had been to create a blind spot.
…She already fired an arrow, didn’t she!?
She had placed it inside the attack barrier down below.
Even as the barrier collapsed and fell apart, it was most likely being controlled. That was why Horinouchi had kept Akerindou intact and running even after removing its ether bowstring emitter. She had synced the barrier with Akerindou and was having it aim toward Hunter.
She could see Horinouchi injured and damaged up ahead, but the girl had a smile on her lips.
And a moment later…
An attack came from directly below.
The single shot fired from the collapsing attack barrier and passed through the spell circle for a guidance spell, but…
…It isn’t aimed at me!
It hit the ether stake. As she pulled the stake back, it was pierced through by a vertical attack.
And that was not all.
Horinouchi spread her arms up ahead.
She held the partially broken ether bowstring emitter in her left hand as a sword, but she now returned it to its bowstring form.
Hunter heard the ringing of a large shrine bell.
She knew what was happening. All the damage had fully heated Horinouchi’s Phlogiston Heart.
She had planned to take that damage which was quite a gamble for someone with no defensive strength, but she had pulled it off.
The Hedgehog’s ether stake exploded at the end of Hunter’s left arm.
She saw something being constructed in the center of her vision.
The broken Akerindou was becoming a much larger structure. The rapid ringing of a large shrine bell accompanied the construction of motors around the ether bowstring that connected Horinouchi’s arms. And…
“Magino Frame – Akerindou!”
As soon as the five hundred meter bow was completed, it fired a great blast toward Hunter.
The Magino Frame’s main cannon scored a direct hit from point-blank range.
The explosion of light became a spray of ether and a surge of destruction. The wind blew and Horinouchi frowned at the fierce rocking of the Magino Frame she stood on.
…That may have been a little too much.
Clouds of ether surrounded the Akerindou. Ether reaction light raced through them like lightning. They were thick, but the morning sunlight shined on them from the east and a pale yellow light made it through to her.
If not for the wind, noise, and movement, it would have felt like being wrapped in luxurious silk.
But then something appeared in her vision. It appeared inside the ether clouds letting the sunlight through.
No, “shadow” was not the right term for something so large.
It was just as large as the Akerindou she stood on.
Horinouchi saw something to port that she would much rather have not seen.
It was in its cannon form and Hunter stood on top of it as it completed its construction.
She too was constructing her Form and she was out of breath.
Horinouchi tried to move away, but her position was poor.
…She deflected it, didn’t she!?
It had been a direct hit, but that had heated up the other girl’s Phlogiston Heart.
She had likely used her Normal Device as a shield to gain a short period of breathing room.
And she had not mistaken the order in which to summon her Magino Device. Even as she formed the shell as the core, she had likely already started on the radome that determined her location.
With that information, the US military could support her.
The silent cooperation between her and her comrades had made one crucial accomplishment.
During the direct hit, Hunter had used an instantaneous swing-by to escape.
It had been a split-second decision like a quick-draw and it had been a gamble since she could not have checked what direction she would be escaping to.
But it had saved her.
The rest came down to Hunter’s willpower. Even with that great strike closing in on her, she had trusted in her comrades and remained focused on victory.
Just like Horinouchi, she had obtained the heat she needed from the most hopeless situation and used that to summon her Magino Frame.
Horinouchi belatedly recalled that Hunter was a high-level ranker and even ranked higher than Horinouchi herself.
The Hedgehog was summoned with priority on the acceleration pathway. The shell was already visible at the back.
Horinouchi could not turn the Akerindou around fast enough as Hunter raised her voice.
Just as she fired, Hunter saw some movement.
It came from a sudden intruder.
She and Horinouchi should have been the only two witches with the only two giant silhouettes in that sky, but…
A giant white and blue sword was flying her way, but she could not stop the firing process now.
The extreme close-range blast was being made without the acceleration pathway complete, but it should have been enough to tear through the Akerindou’s thinly-armored side.
But instead, she heard a solid sound.
The sky roared, light burst, and the shell shattered in midair.
It had been blocked by the great sword’s armor, so she shouted the name of the blue and white Magino Device and of its owner.
“Kagami Kagami…and Dikai-whatever!?”
Horinouchi watched on in a daze until the Suzaku gave a joyous whistle on her shoulder.
She snapped back to her senses and looked over at the Suzaku.
“Wh-what was that whistle? No bird sounds like that.”
It made a fake-sounding rooster cry, so was it really the Suzaku?
But that was not what mattered.
Up ahead, something had thrust up into the ether clouds scattering between Horinouchi and Hunter.
“It’s Dikaiosyne. You really do have a bad memory.”
That comment came from the individual standing on the shell formation area that made up the pommel of the great sword.
It was Kagami. She was naturally wearing her Magino Form Holy Knight outfit and she looked back at Horinouchi over her shoulder.
“Are you okay, um…”
She thought for a second and nodded.
“And you say I have a bad memory!?”
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