Clash of Hexennacht:Volume1 Chapter 3
Chapter 3: Fly Through the Sky
A spell that absorbs power
Is a witch’s technique
Kagami felt her skin tremble at the girl who had appeared before her.
The ether and the ley lines were taking that girl’s side. She could instinctually tell that the foundations of the world were obeying the other girl more than her. And she knew what system one used to make all forces obey them.
People made those so the world would obey them.
A power greater than the weapon Kagami held raced around the girl.
It was light.
Several spell circles opened inside it. They were vermilion. Several words scrolled across the circular display decorated with maple leaves and the red bird on the girl’s shoulder gave a single cry.
The bird vanished into the light.
The ringing of a bell filled the air. But instead of the light jingle of a small bell, this was the clanking of a large metal bell at a Shinto shrine. The ringing spread out as if setting up a barrier of sound and the girl spread her arms in the center.
A moment later, she brought her hands together in front of her.
A solid clap left them.
In an instant, her clothes scattered into the sound. But by the time they did, spell circles enveloped her to the point of hiding her body.
After another clap, small collections of mechanical components appeared on different parts of the girl’s body.
Kagami guessed they were engines made of ether.
She was right.
The engines consumed ether to spin and they accelerated the ley lines that supported her. The spiraling light was pressurized and it wrapped around her body.
“Oh? You can construct armor and reinforced engines too? That is a splendid mental presentation.”
The girl created heavy armor and clothing. An especially solid part was ejected from the legs to assist in flight and as a point of support when wielding a large weapon.
The engines were contained inside and it was all powered by ether. Thousands of bolts made of ether were ejected into the air and they drove into each part of her equipment to hold it in place.
The sound reverberated outward.
Kagami did not overlook the single spell circle that opened in the center as if to be stored in the girl’s chest.
It contained a heart-shaped indicator and it was likely the central system for her ether equipment.
Kagami managed to read the mirror-image writing in the spell circle.
It said “Phlogiston Heart System”.
The ringing of the bell began to fade and the wall of light thinned. A girl wielding a massive bowgun was revealed just about to leave the barrier.
On her upper body, the clothing stood out more than the armor, but the giant arms and legs were meant for swift and heavy combat.
She slowly raised her head and looked toward Kagami.
Sensing that the battle would begin soon, Kagami breathed in.
A realization came to her.
She had been mistaken about something.
She had been right in assuming the sword she held was the primary form of weapons in this world, but…
…It is large and it has a way of swinging you around.
She had assumed they had some system for lightening their weapons, but that was wrong.
“So you’re meant to swing these things around only after creating an armored outfit and reinforced engines out of ether like you just did.”
And at the center of it all was the spell circle contained inside the girl’s chest armor.
“Phlogiston Heart. Could you call that a burning belief? I suppose that is the core of the spell and the part that manages the presentation. Then if I follow your rules…”
Kagami threw her sword into the sky and prepared her stance.
…It is probably my limbs and awareness of my heart that matter.
As she thought, the sword fell from the sky. The hilt was pointed up and the blade down. The tip of the massive blade produced a sound of destruction as it stabbed into the ground.
Immediately afterwards, Kagami raised her voice.
“Summon Normal Frame. …That is how it works, right?”
“Teacher, I’m detecting a large-scale ley line vibration in the eastern ruins. No, two of them!”
A girl in the classroom spoke while holding up a crystal pendant.
Similarly, another girl raised her head.
“The special equipment, spell, and honors divisions are worried too. There’s a stir running through our unique ether. The servants are probably causing a commotion right now.”
However, the previous girl’s report pointed to a certain fact.
“The stray witch summoned a Normal Device, too?”
A clap answered that question. It came from the teacher on the podium. She looked up at the students and spoke.
“A Normal Frame is a general term referring to both the Normal Device weapon and the Normal Form clothing, but that equipment is a manifestation of the summoner’s mind created with a servant’s power.”
“The engine system that supports the Frame is controlled by the Phlogiston Heart we all possess. In that case, it would be entirely possible for this stray witch to summon the same sort of system. She only needs to possess a witch’s heart, the Phlogiston Heart that allows one to alter the world as they see fit.”
Horinouchi saw the girl summon a Normal Frame. No, she had already summoned a Device, so she was only summoning a Normal Form.
But even as she watched it happen right in front of her, she could not believe it. The engine system and everything else were included and the armor was attached, but…
“You can summon an entire Normal Frame without a servant!?”
“I’ve been wondering. Can you not?”
“The only one who can do that is-…”
She was cut off by a single spell circle appearing in the girl’s chest armor.
It was decorated with Greek characters that said “Burning Belief”.
It was not actually a Phlogiston Heart System, but it must have filled the same role.
…Did she watch my summoning and copy it?
That is insane, thought Horinouchi. I’ve never come across anyone like this before.
And this was more than an unintentional copy.
During her summoning, the multiple spells Horinouchi had used had pulled the ley lines and ether toward her. All of that was released when she ended the summoning and this girl had targeted that instant.
A Normal Device was a weapon made of ether.
The girl’s was stabbed into the ground.
Ley lines flowed through all space, but their concentration was especially dense underground. The ether blade must have acted as a keystone to the ley lines gathered there and thus supplied her with power.
On top of that, she summoned the engines. To directly take in the ether and ley lines she had gathered, the ether engines had used the “mold” left by the departing ley lines and ether.
In other words, she had intentionally copied Horinouchi.
She had already created her Device, so she had only summoned the Form. That cut down the time required.
So by the time she knocked her fists together…
“I have borrowed a lot for this match, but will this work?”
She had done a splendid job.
The Normal Form was symmetrical. She had directly used a portion of Horinouchi’s system, but…
“If you think this is not fair, I can release it.”
“The Phlogiston Heart System is meant for any witch above a certain level. You can tune the engines for your own needs, but everyone uses one of a few basic models. If modelling yours after that is unfair, then I too am not playing fair.”
“What do you mean by that?”
Horinouchi was confused.
She had been expecting a sign of comprehension such as “I see” or “understood”, but that was not what she got.
…How can she ask what I mean?
As she had said, the Phlogiston Heart System did more than simply create a weapon out of ether. It first created engines out of ether so they could strengthen what came later. The engines provided the power assistance needed to complete one’s equipment. And after it was complete, the engines were used to increase the output of the equipment.
“I mean the days of merely creating a weapon from ether and wielding them with brute strength are long gone.”
Her opponent did not respond.
She simply stared at Horinouchi and inhaled.
She intended to move.
The Suzaku appeared on Horinouchi’s shoulder and gave a powerful cry.
Was it meant to warn Horinouchi or intimidate her opponent? Either way, the sharp cry was higher-pitched than any Horinouchi had heard before.
…Just like that night ten years ago.
So she too breathed in and named herself. This was a battle between witches. She doubted it would be listed in the official records, but she raised her Normal Device regardless.
“I am Horinouchi Mitsuru, Student Council President of Shihouin Academy and #4 in the world witch rankings. My combat style is ‘Shrine Maiden’. I challenge you to an official match.”
“This just sounds bloody. So what is mine?”
It was obvious at a glance. Then again, a Normal Form was a representation of that person’s heart.
Horinouchi simply spoke the name of the designation she assumed it was from its appearance alone.
“Holy Knight-style. I believe that is a rather old design.”
“I guess the previous stuff is influencing it. Oh, well. Thanks.”
The girl showed off a small smile.
It was not a false smile. Her honest thanks could be seen in it.
“Horinouchi, you can deal with my affiliation and whatever on your own. …At any rate, I will accept your challenge as a chance to study.”
She slowly opened her mouth.
“My name is Kagami Kagami. I hope you will remember it.”
A barrier covered the classroom window.
It was a thick shutter. Each individual panel of armor was fairly large, but its physical defensive ability was less important than the multiple defense spell system incorporated into the inside.
The insides of the classroom walls were covered in a system equivalent to the shutter. The classroom grew dark and reinforcing and buffering control spells appeared in the four corners of the ceiling and floor as well as in a few other places.
“This will allow us to endure a Magino Frame attack while inside the classroom. Similar spell defense barriers will have risen in places along Tokyo Bay’s coast to protect the people there.”
As the teacher spoke, noises shook the classroom.
They were located on the bay, so the noise reached them after echoing off the massive ocean surface.
“That’s the sound of the air being split,” said someone while staring up into the unseen sky.
Someone else bent their fingers to count.
“It’s moving at over 200 meters per second. If they’re doing this immediately after summoning their Normal, I wish I’d napped in the courtyard instead of going to class. I could have seen an air battle between top rankers.”
One of them spoke behind one of the stepped classroom’s desks so the teacher would not notice.
“My dad’s outside and he just told me the stray witch’s combat style is Holy Knight. But I thought that style couldn’t do aerial battles.”
“Witches are all about exceptions to the rules,” someone whispered back.
Two loud rumbles shook the ceiling and they all shrugged.
“Holy Knight equipment is slow and old and they can never find the right person for it, so how is someone using that in an aerial battle against the Suzaku shrine maiden?”
“C’mon, everyone. You can find exceptions everywhere and in everything,” said the teacher after looking up at the rising rumble and reverberation. “A witch’s Frame is a manifestation of the summoner’s mind created with a servant’s power.”
Realizing the teacher had heard them, the girls either put up their guard or sighed, but one of them asked a question.
“But, teacher. Why are they modeled after the equipment used by different ancient professions? I’d like to freely design one into something more fashionable.”
“That is to raise the manifestation of the presentation and increase how active it is afterwards. The historical ‘forms’ have their reasons. Don’t tell me you wanted to fight the Black Witch in a night dress. Listen.”
As she spoke, new sounds joined the reverberation of the air: sounds of clashing metal and blasting air.
“Sword fighting and cannon fire.”
“Yes.” The teacher nodded. “The basic design of the Normal Frame is the weapon based in the user’s mind and beliefs and the equipment based on their occupation. I’m sure anyone in the ranker class is entirely focused on strengthening and retouching them.”
“I don’t know about this stray witch, but it is certain that Miss Horinouchi has the upper hand as far as building up one’s Frame is concerned.”
The teacher did not stop there.
“But even if your rank is lower than hers, you still have a role on Hexennacht. You understand how likely that is after the tragedy ten years ago, don’t you?”
Everyone stiffened at that question.
They heard a cannon fired far overhead. The splitting of the air now sounded like distant thunder.
“You will receive the most support from your servant. The individual servant determines the coloration of your equipment, but be careful if you choose a servant for fashion reasons. A servant has a symbiotic relationship with its witch, so you cannot swap it out. If you do end up with a servant partner that creates a color you don’t like…”
One of the students raised her hand while looking up into the sky.
Despite the battle overhead, this was still class time, so there was something else they needed to focus on.
“We’ve already started working towards opposing Hexennacht, but…”
The girl turned her back on the shuttered window as she spoke.
“If there is a problem with our equipment, we can hurry over to the clothing division and ask them to find a way to modify the design. For a servant’s idiosyncrasies, we need to get a breeder to fix it.”
The teacher nodded and made sure she and the students were focused on her again.
“During my generation’s Hexennacht, we were told ‘that kind of selfishness’ was not allowed, but this is a much nicer age.”
“Then,” said one student while raising her hand.
She was the one who had received a report from her father earlier and she leaned forward as she asked a question.
“Teacher, is it possible to summon a Frame without a servant?”
“It is said only one person can do that.”
After looking across all of her students, the teacher continued.
“Only the Black Witch, mankind’s fated enemy who sealed herself in the moon, the source of this world’s magic power, and left Hexennacht as an assignment for us.”
Kagami was amazed at how clear the air was.
It was early summer, but the air was chilly. Of course, she was over ten kilometers up. Also, there was a reason she was able to fly and focus on her fighting.
“I see. The engines supporting this outfit take care of the protective spells the spell user would normally have to cast.”
She saw Tokyo Bay down below. A school was located at the center of its deep shape.
She had heard that school raised witches.
Tokyo was destroyed.
Occupied villages were visible on the southwest side of Tokyo Bay and heading toward the Yokohama region and she could see the air wavering from the smoke and heat of people living there.
But a quick turn to the north and everything changed.
A giant crater existed around Shinjuku and it had become a lake. Several other smaller holes decorated the ruined metropolis. In places, diagonal gashes cut into the city’s shape.
Destruction had transformed the buildings into twisted pieces of art. Some had been compressed downwards and some had had half the building torn away by a spherical shape.
“What is this?” muttered Kagami.
At the same time, something flew toward her.
It had red hair.
It was Horinouchi.
The ether light of her Normal Frame caused her hair to glow red and she held her weapon at the ready.
It looked like some kind of long gun. The gun resembled a red and white dragon’s head or a bird with its wings spread behind it.
She held it toward Kagami and accelerated diagonally through the sky.
It fired an ether shell created inside the gun, but it had likely had its physical hardness increased. Kagami accelerated to the side to dodge.
As the shot broke through an explosion of water vapor and flew past her, she noted arrow feathers on the high-speed shell.
The sound arrived after the fact and Kagami approached Horinouchi at the same kind of speed.
She understood the principle behind her flight, but she had not quite grasped the technique needed to take tight turns. The flight primarily used the accelerators on her leg armor, which allowed her to easily swing herself around by moving her upper body.
Needless to say, if she effectively used that unbalanced nature…
“I can turn just my body while maintaining my speed forward!”
She twisted to the right while flying straight ahead.
Once her speed reached a certain level, her entire body could no longer stop its forward movement for reasons other than air resistance. And so she rotated her body to turn right and then backwards.
“There you are!”
About two hundred meters back and to her right, she spotted Horinouchi.
The girl jumped away.
To forcibly alter her trajectory, she had used her leg accelerators for a short hop.
She had moved down. The sky was vast and allowed her to move in three dimensions, but she chose the direction that made it more difficult to lower her speed.
At first glance, one would see the ruins down below and her actions would be harder to distinguish.
“She is used to this.”
Kagami jumped, too. As soon as she did, a shell passed through the spot she had just vacated.
In an instant, she crouched down in midair and moved as if toppling forward.
She kicked at the heavens.
The acceleration was instantaneous, so she continued doing it. She took a second, third, and then fourth accelerating step.
Ahead of her, she saw Horinouchi raising her gun toward her with the ruins in the background.
Kagami was going to be shot, so she took evasive action.
She tore through the sky, hopped right, hopped left despite the shell flying toward her, and then…
She sliced through the flying shell with her large sword.
She could feel the straight-line force of the shell and she knew Horinouchi would be at the other end of that force.
And she was.
The rest was simple. Kagami accelerated to fill the gap between them.
Horinouchi fired on Kagami again from a distance of one hundred meters.
The shell flew straight once more. It was an honest trajectory that demonstrated the girl’s diligent spirit, so Kagami sliced through the shell again and…
She immediately put her sword in firing mode. Instead of a blank, she fired an actual shell along the path she planned to fly.
Kagami thought she had hit.
In the instant after an attack, when her opponent would have been checking to see if she had hit or not, she had counterattacked.
It would have been difficult for Horinouchi to evade while holding that gun.
Ether light exploded and sprayed outward. And another light was visible beyond the fragments and blast of Kagami’s shell.
It was an arrow.
The arrow was shaped like the shells Horinouchi had fired earlier. However, there were more than one and they did not fly forward like shells.
Horinouchi’s right hand was raised toward Kagami and it held three stacked arrows like a shield.
Past the three arrows, her sharp gaze was focused on Kagami.
While flying and trying to take up a good position against Kagami, the Suzaku shrine maiden spoke.
“My shield cannot be broken with a single individual’s power.”
“So this world also holds that tradition!”
After speaking, Horinouchi shut down her shield.
Kagami also prepared her next attack.
But Horinouchi was faster. Her gun was still pointed at Kagami and…
With a rotating metallic sound, the back end of her gun opened wide.
It was not a gun at all. It was a bow. The bow had two wheels at the base and it opened up in the sky, resembling a dragon or the Suzaku.
As she flew, Horinouchi drew the ether bowstring.
“Cry out, Akerindou.”
In an instant, a dozen shells flew toward Kagami. And they were homing shells.
- Means “Vermilion Gentian”.
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