Clash of Hexennacht:Volume1 Chapter 16
Chapter 16: Then What Should I Do?
I know that
It only took Hunter an instant to fire.
She was flying over the ocean south of Japan.
The Seventh Fleet’s Silent Service had searched out this spot that avoided detection by the Shinto guardian deities.
So once she was in position, she only needed to align herself with the swing-by satellite passing by overhead and then fire.
An explosive blast filled the air and the bullet seemed to skip thrice as it flew east.
That was all.
Her comrades would guide it for her. They knew Horinouchi’s location, so they would precisely guide the bullet to her.
Unlike with Kagami, Horinouchi’s Magino Frame could not avoid taking damage, so this would win the battle.
Even if the girl did try to defend, she was over a foreign sea and she did not know where Hunter was. Even if the Horinouchi Group had a wide reach, they would not have reached the ocean quite yet. She might have managed over land, but the sea was a different story.
The bullet was fast enough that it would all be over by the time she saw it.
The battle was already settled if Horinouchi really did not know the direction Hunter was firing from.
“Which means I just have to wait for it to hit.”
Hunter was not sure if she should breathe a sigh of relief just yet, but the sun had already risen to the height of “early morning” rather than “predawn”.
As if following the sunlight, she looked to Japan with a telescope spell.
The base of Mount Fuji had a large black crater torn into it. That was the result of her attack on Kagami.
Seeing it discouraged her a little.
She felt bad for doing the same thing as the Black Witch. At the same time, she recalled Kagami’s rebuke and smiled bitterly.
She did believe her actions had an individual form of justice behind them, but how long had it been since someone had scolded and tried to stop her instead of accepting and supporting her?
It was a nostalgic feeling and it brought a song to her lips.
“And where is that band who so vauntingly swore,
“That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion,
“A home and a country shall leave us no more?
“Their blood has washed out their foul footstep’s pollution.
“No refuge could save the hireling and slave.
“From the terrors of flight or the gloom of the grave.
“And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave.
“O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!”
That was the third verse of the Star-Spangled Banner.
Once she finished releasing her song into the sky, a morning breeze seemed to blow in response.
“Representative Hunter! The bullet will hit in twenty seconds!”
The view from the satellite above reached her spell circle.
Even from the sky, Akerindou’s great form was visible over the sea. A digital line was added arriving from the west and that straight line and arrow were labelled with the word “bullet”.
The footage revealed an explosion of ether light and a giant pillar of water.
Just as she thought it had been a direct hit, an unexpected color filled the spell circle.
Hunter gasped at what that must mean.
Something was moving inside the spell circle.
“The enemy Magino Frame…has survived!”
What did that mean? It should have been impossible to intercept that bullet without knowing what trajectory it was taking, but the satellite footage zoomed in on the enemy.
Akerindou was pointed straight up at her eye in the sky. And…
The girl was looking straight up at the satellite in orbit.
A moment later, Horinouchi’s cannon blast destroyed the satellite, but…
“Don’t tell me she could see where I was.”
Hunter had supposedly left the range of her Shinto detection.
“Oh? What do you think you are doing there?”
A voice reached her from behind.
It was several kilometers away, but a Magino Frame was approaching with the shimmering heat of acceleration light enveloping itself. The great sword was definitely damaged, but…
“Over here. This is no time to be distracted.”
Hunter wanted to ask how this was possible.
…She shouldn’t have been able to catch up!
Hunter had used several swing-by pathways to reach this point. The only way to track that would be to follow the remnant ether light, but that method had to be done immediately.
Kagami would have needed a means of gaining speed rivalling the swing-by method.
“How did you catch up during all that?”
Hunter spotted some vanishing light on the back of Kagami’s Magino Frame, but it was not the light of a thruster. There were eight of them and they had clearly been stabbed in after the fact.
“Don’t tell me you had her shoot you to accelerate you!”
She really is an honorable sort of insane, thought Hunter.
What kind of idiot would have their partner shoot them just because they needed some speed? The kind right in front of her, apparently. But she had relied on her defenses to “eat” the hard hit. The arrows had pierced into the Magino Frame, but Kagami must have absorbed them and their speed.
…This is the problem with that craft-style power of hers!
Kagami pointed at the dumbfounded girl.
The obvious idiot smiled.
“This is where things get interesting!”
Kagami had Dikaiosyne charge forward.
Hunter immediately opened several spell circles around herself.
…Are you trying to escape!?
Those spells were likely meant to coordinate her swing-by movement with her mainland, so the girl was about to take high-speed flight. And…
“I will not let you escape!”
To accelerate, Kagami used Horinouchi’s acceleration arrows remaining on Dikaiosyne’s back end. The great sword charged forward like it had been kicked.
It struck the center of the giant Magino Frame’s stern as if gouging into the seam there.
“That was not enough to reach the bullet formation area, was it!?”
Hunter immediately began her flight.
But she missed the swing-by.
The massive Magino Device had lost its powerful acceleration method, so now it was Kagami’s turn.
She was using her Normal Device to control Dikaiosyne, so she pushed it forward toward the stern of Hunter’s Magino Device.
Hunter realized she was being pushed.
She could see a few of Horinouchi’s acceleration lights vanishing from the back of the great sword. There had been eight to begin with, but now there were only five.
Her opponent was losing the source of her speed, but the speed she did have was enough.
…It rivals my swing-by method!?
Horinouchi had focused and refined that power in order to tear into the moon. Meanwhile, Hunter’s comrades informed her of the next swing-by point, but…
…I won’t make it!
As each new point arrived, she failed to arrive in time and missed it.
Kagami was predicting her actions perfectly. The Horinouchi Group was most likely observing from the surface and determining what satellites Hunter was primarily using. If so…
A shootout began from point-blank range.
She prepared every last cannon and fired on the great sword stabbing into her from behind.
A shock ran through her own Magino Device, light struck at random, and warning lights indicated damage on the rear thrusters and elsewhere, but she did not care. With each tremor, Kagami’s Magino Device shook and nearly threw her off.
That may have been why Kagami accelerated and plunged her blade even deeper inside.
…Is this how you want to decide this!?
But it was not enough.
Hunter’s secondary cannons continued tearing apart Kagami’s Magino Device. She had an overwhelming advantage in number of cannons. When a close-range barrage would work, the Hedgehog would be the one doing the pushing.
But then she realized Kagami was only using her secondary cannons to intercept while raising the speed of her charge.
Even this speed was not enough to break Hunter’s armor. Hunter was accelerating as well and the Hedgehog was sturdy.
Then why? she wondered.
“Representative Hunter! We’ve secured a point location, so please wait a moment! Also, we’ve confirmed your current heading! The enemy is accelerating you toward…”
There was someone behind her by the rising sun in the east.
“The other enemy, the Rank 4!”
Hunter realized what Kagami was trying to do.
“A pincer attack!”
This was not a normal pincer attack. Kagami was accelerating Hunter toward Horinouchi so the third girl could fire on Hunter with all her strength.
It was a forceful use of physics thanks to their relative speeds.
…Just how much does she worship attack power!?
What is this? Does it have to do with the Japanese love of giant breasts? I remember everyone laughing about that when we stayed up all night that one time.
Wait, that’s not the point!
This method was completely insane, but it did make sense. After all, Hunter’s own Hedgehog gained enough speed from its swing-by method to destroy another Magino Frame with only that. If she was hit at these speeds, it was possible it could sink her in a single blow.
Plus, she was up against a unit of two. Even if she destroyed Kagami or made sure Kagami was caught in her own destruction, they would still win if Horinouchi survived.
…In which case…
She pushed herself in a straight line through the morning air while leaving several vapor trails behind her.
“Representative Hunter! You are now in range of the Rank 4!”
That was exactly when Kagami raised her voice while pushing Hunter forward with her powerful acceleration.
Horinouchi viewed her enemy through a telescope spell.
A giant form in the west was being pushed and accelerated toward her.
She must have noticed Horinouchi directly ahead because she had opened her shield instead of using her cannon form.
…I need to break through that armor.
Hesitating would be meaningless. She had only one chance and, even from this distance, the acceleration light from Kagami’s rear thrusters could be seen weakening.
She would begin slowing soon.
Once that happened, it was all over. Once Hunter could escape with her own acceleration, she would change course and destroy the two of them individually. So…
…It has to be now!
As soon as she thought that, she saw an explosion over the western sea.
It was the white explosion of water vapor created when something collided with the atmosphere at high speed.
…Their Device’s exploded?
No, the white was nowhere near large enough for that. And soon, Horinouchi’s telescope spell revealed what had happened.
“Hunter purged the front starboard side of her Magino Device, didn’t she!?”
Air resistance caused the entire Device to groan, but Hunter did not hesitate.
Her secondary cannons were lodging their shots in Kagami’s Device, and…
She purged her front starboard armor. The thick multi-layer armor became fragments of ether in the air, lightening her starboard side, but that left the frame and transformation structure exposed.
As soon as water vapor audibly exploded, the Hedgehog creaked to the right as it was pushed.
While still moving horizontally, she collided with the air to the front and right. Next, the wind poured inside the armor and internal components halfway along the starboard side, blasting away the central starboard armor.
But that damage eliminated the excess stress. The starboard side skidded along the air and the port side flowed forward.
She turned her starboard rear thruster to the right and applied the maximum pressure.
She made a turn and no longer seemed to care about Kagami behind her.
She used their great speed to make a full 180 degree turn with the great sword still piercing her stern.
That thrust Kagami’s Magino Frame toward Horinouchi and…
A swing-by point was coming, so she raised her right hand to activate the spell. Meanwhile, she heard Kagami’s voice from behind.
“But there was not supposed to be another point around here! Could it be…!?”
“That’s right. I told you I had the support of the US military, didn’t I?”
It was obvious what she had done.
“I had one of the satellites alter its orbit to come this way.”
A point of light was moving east in the sky above.
The forcible change of orbit meant it was now falling out of orbit, but Hunter only needed to pursue that shooting star.
“Here I go!”
That swing-by would take her east, toward Horinouchi’s cannon blast.
“You said this is where things get interesting, didn’t you!?”
Horinouchi understood the situation.
The other two were starting to lose speed, but they began charging toward her with new acceleration. And now Kagami’s Dika-whatever was being held forward instead of pushing from behind.
Kagami was likely doing her best to resist, but most of her secondary cannons had been destroyed and there was no more light in her rear thrusters. Also…
“Now!” shouted Hunter. “Are you willing to shoot your own partner, Horinouchi!?”
U.A.H.F. of NORAD was filled with excitement.
They were doing their best to direct the falling satellite directly over the Rank 4’s head. At the same time, they were sending the optimum course to Hunter and having her make course corrections with the Hedgehog’s accelerators.
“Damn, I didn’t think she would actually pull off that 180!”
“Yeah, I kind of thought she might as well just try to escape!”
Everyone sent back their confirmation work, stood up, and looked to the spell circle main monitor.
The commander spoke over the communicator.
“Representative Hunter, your armor cannot be pierced even if it comes down to a shootout after your approach.”
“I know.” The witch they supported replied with a ring of dignity in her voice. “Victory to America!”
“Now, it’s time for you to lose, Horinouchi!”
Horinouchi inhaled at Hunter’s words.
She was hesitant. Of course she was. But…
She recalled her actions concerning her rank, her own displeasure, and Kagami’s tears over her mother.
The scene from ten years ago grew clear in her memories.
That had been her last time to speak with her mother.
She had known what was going to happen to her, but she had cried and asked her not to leave her all alone.
But she remembered clearly what her mother had said.
“Don’t worry. The god of this world seems to have trouble with loneliness, so I’m sure you will find someone important to you as well.”
“Someone who – like me – will smile when you smile and cry when you cry. And because of that, you will be able to trust them and continue on with them.”
She had wondered where someone like that could be.
She had not wanted anyone else to feel the way she did, so she had intended to remain isolated.
Even someone ranked higher than her felt the same way.
And someone had rebuked that girl.
It had felt like a rebuke against this entire world, yet it had been spoken as a simple observation.
“Horinouchi!” shouted Kagami’s voice. “Trust in me, Manko!”
“Don’t call me thaaaaat!”
She shouted back and fired at the same time.
Kagami smiled at Horinouchi’s attack.
…I would expect no less!
There was no hint of hesitation or restraint. The high-speed shot produced five explosions of water vapor as it flew in from far to the east.
It was definitely coming, so…
Kagami used her last acceleration to drive the tip of her great sword into Hunter’s Magino Frame.
Hunter frowned on top of the Device up ahead.
“You’re wasting your effort!”
“Are you worried for me, Hunter!? But…”
Kagami raised her right arm.
“Dikaiosyne, firing form!”
“That won’t accomplish anything!” shouted Hunter.
Kagami was digging into her armor, but…
“Your attack will at best only damage my rear thrusters!”
“What are you talking about? Attacking is Horinouchi’s job.”
She operated Dikaiosyne as if to prove that.
She poured every last ounce of power into the acceleration pathway and white light shined from the pathway meant for the shell to travel down.
“Shell formation area…purge.”
Hunter realized what was happening.
…Did she transform the pincer attack into an acceleration cannon!?
Kagami stood before her. Below her, the great sword’s acceleration pathway was exposed after losing the rear shell formation area.
Horinouchi’s arrow arrived there.
Technically, that was probably due to Hunter’s own course corrections.
The flying arrow stabbed into the acceleration pathway of Kagami’s great sword and raced through it.
“Open shell acceleration spell inside the barrel!!”
Kagami’s voice was followed by the destruction of her sword-shaped Magino Device.
The Device itself could not withstand the power creating the acceleration pathway.
But it only needed an instant.
The relative speed of the swing-by, the acceleration provided by Horinouchi, and the additional acceleration provided in exchange for Kagami’s Magino Device joined together.
The power itself burst inside the heavy armor.
The destruction only took an instant.
The servant managing the Device prioritized protecting Hunter, its master, so when the massive amount of kinetic energy exploded inside, the armor, motors, and transformation system were all abandoned. To make sure nothing obstructed the dispersal of the energy, it was all given over to the destruction and explosion, leaving only the main frame and the base where the servant’s master stood.
Magino Frame Hedgehog exploded and fell silent.
A great noise and clouds of ether light filled the morning sky. Even its giant framework came apart as it slowly fell toward the sea.
Atop the crumbling Magino Frame, Kagami stood before Hunter who had fallen to her knees.
Both of their Magino Frames had been destroyed and neither of them could continue fighting. Hunter must have known that because she fell backwards onto her butt, stroked her servant’s spell circle, and put it away.
“Damn, I lost! Do you have anything to say!?”
“I have not lived a life worthy of saying anything here. But…”
Kagami took a breath before speaking to Hunter.
“Lend us your strength, America. Burning yourself away in a grudge is not what you should be doing. You need act as the world police and lend your strength to those who lack it. And…”
The hand she held out had lost its power arm, but that did not matter.
“How about you start by accepting my help here, Elsie Hunter?”
Hunter looked up into the sky as she slowly fell.
The moon was beginning to vanish there and she could only see the morning sun.
Of course, that was only because the moonlight was hidden by the sunlight, but…
“You’re such an idiot.”
She took Kagami’s hand with a bare hand that no longer wore her Magino Form.
“Why would you go this far to tell me something even elementary schoolers understand?”
She felt the same applied to herself, but she left that unsaid.
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