Clash of Hexennacht:Volume1 Chapter 4
Chapter 4: Smile to the Moon
You are in such a hurry
You are in such a hurry
You are in such a hurry
Can you really pull this off?
The white knight flew through the sky.
The red shrine maiden pursued her.
More and more homing shots were rapidly fired from the expanded red bow.
As if chasing their prey, several dozen arrows flew against the wind, descended, and otherwise pursued the knight.
The knight made several short midair dashes and occasionally…
She would throw in quick bursts of acceleration that caused her entire body to tremble to put some distance between herself and the shots that were catching up fast.
Occasionally, the homing maws would approach down at her feet and cross paths.
They prepared to devour her, but she made a quick dash to put some distance between them.
Immediately afterwards, the clear shells collided with each other and detonated. Several bright lights of destruction filled the sky and left a trail behind the knight.
The red shrine maiden did not hold back. She always remained behind the barrage and she constantly fired and accelerated.
The bundle of shells she fired now resembled a flock of birds taking flight.
The twang of the bowstring filled the sky with repetitive music.
She forced the knight downwards.
If she was to corner the girl, she had to send her to the ruins below where there was no escape.
Hiding behind the buildings would be of no help. The arrows could easily punch through the decrepit structures and she could supply the finishing blow in the unmaintained and abandoned streets.
Even so, the knight may have thought they would act as cover.
She took the lead and flew quickly into the city.
Horinouchi did not slow down.
She flew at around five meters above the surface. She was very nearly exceeding three hundred kilometers per hour, so merely touching the asphalt would be fatal.
However, she still did not slow down.
She could not when the witch named Kagami was actually accelerating up ahead.
They were traveling at nearly ninety meters per second now. Even if the city was in ruins, there were still obstacles.
Before the city had become what it was now, elevated highways had run through it and cars had driven along them.
All of that had fallen into ruin, but they had not completely vanished.
“It’s been ten years, hasn’t it?”
A decade before, it had not been like this. Horinouchi vaguely remembered it.
There had been people here and the streets had been filled with light, noise, and movement.
All of that was gone now.
Instead, she and the other witch were creating different lights, noises, and movements.
She fired straight forward.
She fired a barrage of homing shots.
However, she did not stop there. She started on a further attack.
A soon as the barrage raced out, she expanded a large spell barrier around it. Every projectile within the designated range of the spell circle had barrier-style course restrictions installed inside. They were then kick-started.
The group of shells flew.
They tore through the air and surrounded Kagami from above, below, left, and right. However, the course restrictions prevented them from hitting the surrounding buildings or the ground.
All of them took the shortest possible route to reach and corner Kagami.
Meanwhile, Horinouchi saw Kagami move.
The girl turned back toward her even as she moved at such high speeds.
She had demonstrated this form of movement earlier. After speeding up, she let her momentum carry her forward while moving her own body around freely.
…She will intercept the initial homing shells with her sword and then fire a counterattack.
The girl was not going to carelessly let Horinouchi get in close. She had the skill and preparation needed to intercept the shots.
So Horinouchi fired again as Kagami turned around.
She fired three non-homing but high-speed shots.
The arrows split the air and created explosions of water vapor.
Kagami reacted by accelerating even as she faced backwards.
…They’re going to hit!
That was exactly what happened.
The three shots struck Kagami.
However, they transformed into bursting light. Because they were travelling at ninety meters per second, Horinouchi quickly passed by the light. The scattering ether and the solid sound slipped through her blowing hair.
Kagami had defended.
Horinouchi saw the girl had stopped the arrows with the tip of her sword which was raised like a shield. Kagami and the sword were blown backwards and she used that extra momentum to escape the pursuing homing shots. Also…
She held the sword like a musical instrument and fired it diagonally into the sky.
It was a meaningless shot. It looked like she had been trying to hit Horinouchi but had her aim thrown horribly off by her defense.
Except that was not the case at all.
The shell flew toward a giant building that had originally been a luxury hotel. The white exterior walls were stained by the rain and the sky was visible through the large hole in the center.
Partway up the building, a column on either side supported the giant hole and Kagami’s blast tore into the closer of the two.
Its destruction sounded like a strong thread snapping.
The rest was simple.
The wind roared and the collapse began.
“Are you insane!?”
The hundred meter square structure collapsed toward their path forward.
Kagami flipped around in midair.
She turned her back on Horinouchi and accelerated.
The giant mass in the sky above felt like it was about to fall on top of her.
Regardless, she accelerated.
As if kicking off the air, she collapsed forward and took a path that would slip below the collapsing building.
…Not long now.
She read the “gap” she needed in order to make it through.
It all came down to her timing.
As soon as she shouted, three swift attacks arrived from behind.
Horinouchi had fired, but…
The triple attack passed above Kagami and struck something else.
It hit the damaged portion of the collapsing building. It accurately pierced through the spot still connecting the collapsing top half to the bottom half.
As a result, the great mass lost its only support, making it accelerate and change its course.
It was now going to collide with Kagami.
With the inside pointed downward, it slid down as if to catch her within.
Her course below would not make it in time.
She watched as the giant wall fell in front of her.
“I see,” she shouted. “Instead of shooting me, you chose to block my path and stop me. So that is who you are, Horinouchi!”
She was aware that she was smiling as she moved. She had her entire body jump upwards.
“It was well worth hoping you would be that kind of person!”
Horinouchi sent herself on a rising trajectory to circle around the falling building.
As if drawing in the air ahead of her, she rapidly swung her entire body upwards. After confirming that Kagami collided with the wall below, she would slow down and finish the girl off.
But she was not able to do that.
When she looked down, she saw Kagami launching her body in another direction.
Kagami leaned forward and low, so Horinouchi assumed she had chosen a downward trajectory.
But she had not.
The white holy knight gathered all the momentum that was sending her body rotating forward.
And she leaped.
She kicked off the air and leaped upwards with a movement similar to returning from a handstand.
She had changed her great forward acceleration into an almost entirely vertical jump.
Inertia had to be placing a heavy burden on her body, but…
The knight let out a rough breath and completed her movement.
She had just barely made it. She was close enough to place her hand on the edge of the falling building to assist her rotation.
Regardless, she had done it.
And Horinouchi realized Kagami had turned toward her.
She still had forward momentum, but she was no longer flying.
She placed her feet on top of the collapsing and falling building, back stepped, and slid backwards.
She held her sword at the hip. The shockwave of her passage shattered the building’s remaining windows, sparks flew from the soles of her feet, and she had her sword at the ready.
She planned to fire.
The sword was in firing mode and Horinouchi noticed light already inside the muzzle.
…She’s trying for a counter!?
Horinouchi could block a simple shell with her three arrows, so Kagami had opted for a counter.
She would be stopped while Horinouchi would swiftly charge in.
But once Horinouchi matched their altitudes, she could fire directly at her. She was guessing their relative speeds would allow her shell to break through Horinouchi’s shield.
That was what this was.
When she realized what that meant, Horinouchi could not stop the heat that rose from her neck and into her cheeks.
…Sh-she predicted I would drop the building in front of her!?
Just as Horinouchi felt like she had been called naïve, Kagami fired on her.
The counter flew toward the very center of her body. As an archer, she could tell just how splendid a shot it was.
Horinouchi made up her mind.
She decided it was her experience that kept her from choosing any kind of defense.
She did something else here.
Inside its spell circle, her Phlogiston Heart heated up. While assuming its heat was what she felt in her cheeks, she drew the ether bowstring all at once.
The instant she grabbed the string, a shell was formed in Akerindou’s chamber. And this shot was large enough to extend from the chamber into the acceleration pathway.
…Even if she defends, this will smash a Normal Device made without a servant!
With that thought, she looked forward.
Kagami had targeted the very center of her body, so she fired diagonally down from above that.
Kagami saw the light shatter in midair and a vermilion arrow fly her way.
The vermilion arrow flew down diagonally and her own shell crashed into it.
But the enemy’s shot managed to pierce through her own and it flew on at high speed.
It was on a perfect collision course and it was quite powerful. Kagami assumed her sword would be destroyed if she tried to defend.
A smile appeared on her lips, but she forced it down and gave a shout.
“I must ask!”
With that, she raised her sword.
A moment later, the coming arrow collided with the protecting blade.
It was a direct hit and the giant blade shattered in an instant.
…I shot her down!
Horinouchi saw light explode atop the falling building.
The scattering light was clearly ether light. The enemy’s Normal Device had been destroyed.
The enemy had made a counterattack, so Horinouchi had done the same.
And her shell had more force behind it. That was her reason behind firing and it had produced definite results.
However, she still did not hold back. She maintained the momentum of her flight, prepared Akerindou in firing form, and flew directly above the collapsing building.
She fired again.
She fired a non-homing multi-shot toward the center of Kagami’s previous location. A human form was vaguely visible through the glowing smoke, but it lacked accuracy. That was her reasoning for using the multi-shot.
The ether bowstring twanged once.
The barrage of multiple bullets flew toward the enemy below.
Immediately afterwards, the falling building crashed into the ground.
The sound of breaking rock rang out.
Below, the building seemed to bounce lightly.
It was an old and rotting building and walls that had lost their connections fell from the ceilings and floors that were perpendicular to the ground. The roar of collapse and clouds of dust sent the air inside the building blowing out.
With the walls knocked loose, the building looked like a grid structure.
This opened plenty of massive gaps that allowed the rising dust to settle down.
Horinouchi had a thought as she looked at the honeycomb-like wreckage: My shot was almost entirely useless, wasn’t it?
But she saw something in the scattering smoke: light.
It was clearly ether light. And…
“She’s re-summoning a Frame!?”
Her question proved accurate.
Kagami stood directly below her.
Her arms were spread and she was completing a certain task.
She was doing something to her shattered Normal Device.
Kagami breathed in.
…That was a splendid shot.
Comparing just their weapons, her Normal Device could not hope to stand up to Horinouchi’s. Not only had she not used a servant, but she had made hers far too roughly because she had been copying someone and doing it for the first time.
She had been fighting with no engines or anything else in her weapon.
She had wanted to reform it to fix that, but she had not been able to spare the time needed to officially complete the ceremony and the ether was not something one could gather immediately.
That was why she had wanted to recycle her previous weapon. She had decided to reform the existing Normal Device which she considered to be a wonderfully ecological plan.
However, there had been a problem.
Despite her complaints, she had done a good job of making the weapon. It was not easy to break.
That was why she had used Horinouchi’s attack. She had made a counterattack. If that was enough to defeat her opponent, that was fine. But if she instead used her opponent’s attack to destroy her weapon, she could use that ether as well.
Either result had been fine by her.
She reformed her large sword with an ether engine in the center.
This would work.
Unlike before, the sword had an acceleration thruster contained in the guard.
She grabbed the hilt and took flight.
She flew vertically to reach the shrine maiden witch located directly overhead.
The servant looked up at the battle in the sky.
It had left the area occupied by man and reached an area of nothing but ruins.
It had a certain amount of knowledge supplied for its survival, this was an abandoned city, and no pursuers were coming. Therefore, everything would be okay if it settled down here.
But the sky was noisy and, when it looked up, it realized something.
The person who had allowed it to escape was fighting.
It understood that.
…What is this?
She had nothing. When it had first met that person, it had not sensed the ether power any of this world’s witches would have or anything else either.
This was strange.
How could she fight if that was the case? How could she fight just like witches did?
The servant did not know. But that dragon child had a thought: the method, means, and technique did not matter. She was fighting using something beyond its knowledge. In that case…
“Why” was she fighting?
And why had she let the dragon child escape?
Its very existence was a mistake, so why?
It looked up into the sky.
Two lights were wrapping around each other at high speed, scattering other lights, and rising into the heavens.
They would not stop.
Horinouchi could tell her enemy had grown stronger.
The girl was generally following their rules, but she would occasionally do something that ignored them completely.
Rankers would occasionally exist outside the rules like that, but this girl was especially bad. Not only had she remade her Normal Device mid-battle, but…
“She’s keeping up with my speed!?”
Horinouchi was a shrine maiden, but her servant was the Suzaku. When it came to flight speed and control, she did not just rival the three ranked above her, she believed she outdid them at least in some aspects.
“Sorry, but I am borrowing your power. You should have expected that.”
The girl dodged a homing arrow Horinouchi fired at close range and she swung her sword forward.
Horinouchi deflected it with her three arrow shield and placed some homing shots behind her.
They had little initial speed, but the homing barrage accelerated and almost seemed to hop over to accurately pursue the girl. However, that girl named Kagami sliced them and swept them away with her sword while accelerating after Horinouchi.
“What point is there in speaking with you!?”
Kagami paid no heed to that response. She pressed her sword against the arrow shield, trying to break through.
Kagami raised her eyebrows as she asked her question.
“What is your purpose here when everything is so badly destroyed!?”
“Those weapons. What enemy are they meant to protect you from!?”
“Have you never heard of Hexennacht!?” asked Horinouchi on reflex.
…There’s no way she couldn’t have!
Horinouchi could not be the only one with such fresh memories of ten years before. Even so, Kagami crossed her arms in midair.
“I have not! So I ask that you tell me!”
She was too honest or too bold or too something.
At any rate, she was hopelessly ignorant.
Horinouchi began explaining what she had learned in class countless times and saw or heard mentioned on the internet or in conversation on a daily basis.
She fired arrows and dodged attacks as she spoke to the idiot.
“It’s the Black Witch.”
As she flew, Horinouchi caught Kagami’s sword on her shield and twisted it.
She faced them both toward the ground and performed several rolls while glowing sparks flew from the area of continuing contact.
“Can’t you see this?”
Horinouchi ascended through the sky as she spoke.
“There is a reconstructed city directly below, but the rest of Tokyo around it, the rest of the Japanese Archipelago, and – most importantly – the rest of the world was mostly destroyed. Can’t you see that?”
“This was the result of our battle with the Black Witch! It happened ten years ago and has been the way of our world for long, long before that!”
She shoved Kagami away, fired, and fired some more, but Kagami caught the homing shots on her sword and swept them away.
“Battling the Black Witch is the way of this world? Is there really a battle like that!?”
“Yes, that is Hexennacht. The Black Witch is said to have created this world. But when she grew tired of it, she attempted to destroy it. Ever since the people sealed her away and she responded with a sneer, the seal is opened one night every ten years when we must confront and defeat her.”
“The opening in the barrier is small, so generally only one or two individuals are chosen to confront her. And that battle has never succeeded even once in all of human history. She is always resealed.”
“Then,” said Kagami as she flew forward.
While ascending, she forcefully raised her sword and thrust it forward, so Horinouchi had to catch it on her three arrows.
Kagami quickly moved in much closer.
With the space for the blade and shield between them, she asked another question. They continued accelerating toward the heavens all the while.
“Where is this Black Witch?”
“You don’t know?” asked Horinouchi as she fired from behind her shield. Her voice rose to a shout. “The moon!!”
Faced with that simple word, Kagami briefly forgot to defend.
She was late to notice the shell approaching her.
Her shoulder armor was broken.
Due to her rapid flight, the impact caused her to collide with the air.
She seemed to bounce and then flipped around in midair.
She let out a rough breath and tried to control her body.
A white circle sat in the center of the blue sky overhead.
It was the moon.
Supposedly, the witch that had created and subsequently tried to destroy the world was there.
Once every ten years, one could meet her and battle her.
In that case…
Horinouchi heard Kagami’s laughter.
They were already several hundred meters apart, but the other girl’s voice reached her even over that distance.
Something like waves of light appeared around Kagami.
They were the ley lines. Normally, only the engines of her Frame would affect them, but she must have been using some other power to pressurize the ether of the ley lines and that ether was rejoicing.
…What is that?
As a shrine maiden, Horinouchi knew a lot about ley lines and ether, but she had never seen this kind of ley line interference. If she tried it, she could tune it better and cover a greater area, but she doubted she could achieve that much power.
The phrase “brute strength” came to her, but this girl was also skilled in combat techniques.
The girl’s powerful voice reached her through the ley lines.
“Ha ha ha!”
Her voice would likely reach any witch or anyone else with special powers. If one pressed their ear to the ley lines, it would reach them as if through a duct.
Kagami brought a hand to her forehead but then swept that hand outwards.
Horinouchi’s voice must have reached Kagami in the same way because she turned around.
She raised her eyebrows in a smile, pointed toward the center of the heavens with her right hand, and gave an announcement.
“I will defeat this Black Witch of which you speak.”
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