Clash of Hexennacht:Volume1 Chapter 5
Chapter 5: Questioning Thoughts
Is not an antonym of hello
…Defeat the Black Witch?
Horinouchi gasped at Kagami’s words.
This enemy could wield power that seemed to ignore the world’s rules and she had just announced she would eliminate the Black Witch who could be called the source of all those rules.
However, Horinouchi did not know what to think about this.
They all wished to achieve that same goal, so it might have been best to think of Kagami as an ally.
This girl had suddenly appeared and desired the privilege they were all working to obtain.
“What do you understand!?”
Horinouchi recalled that her own mother had been the one chosen for the previous Hexennacht.
As a result, the world had been driven to its current state and her mother had been on the verge of death by the time she had been taken in.
However, she had left the Suzaku and plenty of spells with Horinouchi and had reached for her daughter from the stretcher.
Horinouchi remembered her beautiful smile then. As strength had left the hand touching Horinouchi’s cheek, she had grabbed it with both hands to support it and hold the weakening in check.
…And I begged her not to leave me alone.
Even as a child she had understood her position as a witch and had had a fair amount of power.
But her wish then had not been granted.
And that was why she was doing what she did now.
On that night, she had had a wish that no witch could grant.
She could not allow anyone else to have a wish like that. She would eliminate the source of such wishes. And she remembered what her mother had said with a smile back then.
She still did not understand what it had meant.
Assuming she would eventually understand, she had sealed it inside her heart, but she had yet to find the answer.
“I have a question!”
She prepared to ask while instantly firing another shot.
She fired again and again. She swung Akerindou and used that motion to scatter arrows across the sky.
The white moon sat at the top of the blue sky, but a surge of red light quickly filled the heavens.
The loud notes of the bowstring never fully faded and she shouted her question.
“What can you do!?”
Kagami replied while simply pointing the tip of her blade toward Horinouchi.
“If you wish for it, I can bring you happiness, Horinouchi.”
The white Holy Knight instantly flew toward her.
Kagami reached a certain conclusion.
…I cannot defeat this opponent in anything but a head-on contest.
Horinouchi primarily used long range attacks, but she could place her homing shots in midair for a close range battle. Carelessly charging in would only get Kagami surrounded by a wall of arrows.
And if Kagami shifted to moving around, Horinouchi would put some distance between them and begin attacking.
That was what had happened when she had knocked down the building. If she had not carelessly stopped moving then, she would not have been able to constantly observe her or get her to approach.
Kagami could only describe the girl as reliable.
In that case, there was only one way: head-on.
When facing the girl head-on, the homing arrows lost their meaning.
If Kagami charged in at full speed, their relative speed would allow her to shake off the homing arrows and reach Horinouchi before the arrows could catch up.
The high-speed straight-line shots would be a problem, but…
“That is why I remade my sword!”
She leaped through the air as if running and made quick jukes to either side.
She travelled several hundred meters in no time at all.
The arrows of red light pursued her in gouging arcs and they seemed to arrive from every direction instead of just overhead.
She made a midair sidestep. The barrage shook as it followed and the arrows collided with each other, but…
…Here it comes!
A high-speed shot arrived from directly ahead.
But she did not care.
She thrust out the tip of her sword.
“Here I go!”
She smashed it.
She fired three shots, two shots, three shots, and then…
“A concentrated shell!”
There was no need to aim. The white knight was charging straight in like a mere target, so Horinouchi prepared to destroy her.
The bow and arrow moved like a hammer that functioned over long ranges.
The strikes of light ricocheted off the knight’s armor.
Her helmet cracked and her shoulder and leg armor shattered, but…
As soon as Horinouchi realized she was drawing close, her arrow failed to hit.
Kagami had pushed her sword toward Horinouchi and then hid behind it.
Before, her armor would have been in the way, preventing her from using the weapon for cover.
She may have suddenly pulled out this trick after approaching, but…
“That doesn’t matter!”
Horinouchi formed a long, heavy shell inside the chamber. She activated the acceleration spell of the acceleration pathway and let loose the kick of the ether bowstring.
Just as she was going to fire, she saw the sword transform.
…Firing form! Oh, no.
A reflexive decision saved her.
She leaped around a dozen meters backwards and abandoned the chamber’s shell into the air.
A moment later, Kagami’s shot pierced through the shell Horinouchi had nearly fired.
Kagami had planned this.
No matter how long and heavy it was, it was nothing more than an ether shell if it had not passed through the acceleration pathway to be fired.
That was what Kagami had attempted to exploit. She had created a situation in which Horinouchi needed to fire on the sword and then she had fired her own shell just after Horinouchi’s had been created.
If the shell exploded inside the barrel, not even Akerindou would survive unharmed.
Horinouchi had managed to avoid that situation, but…
The sword tore through the fragments of red light from the destroyed shell and it continued toward Horinouchi.
It had already left firing mode and it reached her as a thick striking weapon.
“This isn’t over yet!!”
Horinouchi activated her shield to buffer against the strike from Kagami’s blade.
…I blocked it!
Horinouchi had been pushed back with the shield, but she could fall back and set out some homing shots to put some distance between them. That was her standard strategy.
But she heard a voice.
It began with the exhalation of a rough breath and it continued from there.
“You said a single individual could not reach you, didn’t you?”
Beyond the blade tip on the shield, Kagami raised her head.
Her sweat-covered face contained a smile and lifted eyebrows. That face forcibly accelerated.
“A direct blow for the first strike!”
After the shield was pushed back and bent, a metallic sound reached Horinouchi’s ears.
She saw Kagami’s sword open into firing mode and the muzzle was perfectly trained on her.
“Now the second strike!”
The impact reached her arms as she held up the shield.
Several spell circles opened to inform her that the three arrow shield was reaching its limit.
…It can still survive this!
Kagami used the recoil of the point-blank shot to raise her sword overhead.
Seeing that, Horinouchi held Akerindou behind her. She planned to set some homing shots in midair and fall back.
However, Kagami rotated before her eyes.
The movement was much like a backflip and it sent the sword in a vertical swing.
Horinouchi could not believe her eyes.
Her opponent had used the recoil of the point-blank shot, and…
After flipping upside down, the girl swung the “raised” sword upwards.
Her legs bit into the air in preparation for the impact.
“And the third strike!”
The three arrow shield shattered.
A solid sound shook the air, light sprayed outwards, and Horinouchi realized several spell circles had appeared in front of her.
They said “Impact Buffering”, “Pain Reduction”, and “Physical Strengthening”.
It was a direct hit.
In an instant, she was sent several hundred meters straight up.
Kagami realized she had hit while feeling the side effects of her half rotation.
“It wasn’t enough!?”
It had been a direct hit, but Kagami saw a small light growing more distant.
Directly ahead and moving away horizontally was the light of Horinouchi’s shells.
Horinouchi herself had been knocked upwards, so why was the red light of one of her shells located directly ahead?
…Was it to throw off my aim!?
When Horinouchi had realized she would be hit, she had fired an arrow behind her.
The recoil had moved her forward above the sword, shifting her just a bit more toward the hilt.
It had still been a direct hit, it had broken through her shield, and she had likely been injured, but it had not been a clean hit.
Kagami realized that girl had good instincts and looked up.
She saw the moon in the daytime sky.
Horinouchi looked down at her with that white ring behind her.
Blood flowed from her forehead and both her chest armor and the left power arm that held her bow were damaged.
More importantly, she was out of breath and her shoulders were visibly rising and falling.
“It seems you really don’t understand anything.”
A single spell circle floated up from her chest armor.
It was the Phlogiston Heart.
Her state of damage must have fed back into it because it was partially damaged, but it glowed pure red and even produced a flare.
“So let me tell you.”
As the girl spoke, Kagami saw a light.
In the air at Horinouchi’s feet…no, over a wide area around her, wavering light appeared, resembling a field of glowing red.
This was a large-scale ether ejection.
“Until this Phlogiston Heart breaks, a witch is never defeated.”
“When the Phlogiston Heart heats up…”
Kagami heard the girl laugh. Her eyebrows lowered as the laughter escaped her lips.
“How about I tell you why a Normal Frame is known as a ‘Normal’ Frame?”
She spread her arms and clapped.
The loud sound rang out and she lowered her head quickly to give thanks.
The Suzaku cried out and the shrine maiden gave a shout.
“When her servant and Normal Frame recombine, a witch draws out her true form!”
Her dignified voice travelled across the sky.
“Summon Magino Frame!”
Koutarou had finished giving the evacuation order to the northern reconstructed area and he was now commanding the shrine and temple personnel as they performed ley line interference.
He had several spell circles opened and was gathering statistics data while having the shrines and temples of different areas suppress the ley line disturbances. If necessary, it was his job to send Shinto prayers and Buddhist mantras as suppression spells.
“Master Koutarou! Our shrine’s acoustic equipment is broken! What should we do!?”
“When that happens, you need to sing! Ready? One, two, three…go! ‘♪The women of Ise are salmon piiiink! That is fine by meee! And the gods and buddhas agreeeeee!’ ”
“S-singing that would annoy everyone in the area!”
“Then go buy new equipment!”
He felt somewhat miffed that his singing had gone to waste, but warning signs suddenly appeared on the surrounding spell circles.
The ley line interference at a few different shrines had quickly exceeded its limits and pillars of light were exploding in the distant mountains and throughout the city.
It was obvious what was happening. A quick glance into the air was enough to tell.
Something was being constructed in the deep blue sky above.
A massive amount of ether spread out like a field of wheat and a massive form floated up from it.
It was a giant warship. A bow-shaped aerial cannon was visible in the sky.
It had rapidly taken shape, but it was at least five hundred meters long. The internal frame set in place, the exterior attached to it, and a metallic roar filled the air. Multi-layer ether armor and ether engines were added and it was completed with the ringing of a large bell.
“Magino Frame – Akerindou!”
Kagami saw it.
Its overall form looked like a dragon or a bird with its wings spread. It was shaped much like the bow Horinouchi held.
However, she held that bow in her hand and looked Kagami’s way from atop the radome equipped at its center.
Her damaged Phlogiston Heart scattered red flares and beyond it…
“An outfit change? Is that what you call a Magino Frame?”
“Yes, it is.”
The girl had changed even more than before.
Not only had the damage been repaired, but she now wore a wing-like headdress and a stole. More armor had been attached here and there and the previous armor was a size bigger than before. The bow itself had not changed, but it was constantly enveloped in ether light and had likely received a power-up.
And at her feet, the massive form was complete.
“Let me tell you why you cannot defeat me.”
“This is the ultimate weapon created through a combination with your servant. This form of your beliefs is based on the Normal Frame and can never be achieved alone.”
In other words…
“This is the technology humanity has gathered together to fight the Black Witch! This is a magic wand measuring over 500 meters long! This is a Magino Frame!”
Kagami saw Horinouchi looking at her with a smile and lowered eyebrows.
Kagami was already damaged too and…
…Here it comes!
The five hundred meter cannon noisily opened.
It took the form of a bow. The central wheels produced the metallic sound of a large bell and the vermilion bow’s wings spread. The central acceleration pathway and muzzle formed a cannon with a caliber of thirty meters.
Kagami began to evade, but…
“I will crush you.”
The cannon moved forward.
Kagami realized it was quite fast for its great size.
“Cry out, Akerindou.”
The cannon blast instantly crushed Kagami.
Horinouchi’s blast stabbed into the ruins.
Its power was limited. As the manager of a shrine, she was always trying to suppress any negative effects on the ley lines.
The vermilion pillar tore into the ruins of high-rise buildings and pierced into the crust.
At first, nothing happened. There was only a light tremor followed by silence.
After two beats, it came.
The intense ringing of a large bell raced across the ground within a one hundred eighty meter radius of the strike.
The earth roared upwards from below and the buildings trembled and exploded. The air cried out as it shook and lightning raced through the sky.
Light instantly rose from the crust and into the air.
Immediately afterwards, that one hundred eighty meter radius was crushed. It almost looked like someone had smashed it between their hands.
As lightning covered everything and tremors scattered everywhere, it sounded a lot like divine thunder.
Above it all, a girl watched on from atop a massive vermilion bow. She clapped once and made an announcement.
“Load the next shot.”
Horinouchi was unable to determine where Kagami was.
…Her ether is thin.
The initial report had mentioned this. Every witch had the ability to process ether within herself. They could let the ley lines pass through their body and extract ether from it like a tap.
…But she seems to lack that ability. I don’t know how she can control so much ether like that, but that is what she’s doing.
When Kagami had worn her Normal Frame, Horinouchi had been able to detect the ether forming the Frame and had set her homing arrows to lock onto that.
But that Frame was destroyed and the girl was likely having trouble in a number of ways.
“She is very strange.”
Magino Frame – Akerindou’s blast had not achieved a direct hit. It contained an ether tracking system for use against witches, but Horinouchi had not activated the kinetic tracking system, so she did not know where Kagami had gone afterwards.
“But I know she’s alive.”
She was somewhere.
She was probably catching her breath and working out a new plan in the ruins below.
But once she remade her Normal Frame, it would all be over. Horinouchi would detect the ether and fire her main cannon. But until that happened…
…I cannot let my guard down.
The Magino Frame had more than just the main cannon. Armor panels opened here and there, revealing secondary cannons. They were turret-less, but she used their homing setting to have them carpet bomb the ruins below.
The center of the ruins was completely abandoned. Not even animals approached out of fear of the lingering ether remnants. Even the vegetation was thin.
It was an unbelievably large area of death.
…A Shinto witch attacks with purifying shells.
She wondered if she would be able to tune the ley lines there even a little as she fired the secondary cannons.
The attack from above was a straight-line carpet bombing created from a standard sixteen shots. Kagami analyzed it while catching her breath. Also…
…That is definitely going to consume the line I am on.
The secondary cannons likely had a caliber of two meters and thirty centimeters. Based on the noise, their barrels were short and the shells were guided ones that accelerated after being fired. With the direct hits and the shockwave as the shells passed by, this attack was specialized toward hitting a wide area.
“How troublesome,” muttered Kagami as she looked to her broken equipment and listened to the approaching shell hits. “Honestly, when they talk about surpassing your imagination, they are talking about something like this. I need to watch out for glass.”
She looked around.
She was in a dimly-lit space. It was the second story of what had likely been a department store. She guessed this had been a cafeteria with windows giving a view of the city. Sofa sets and tables were located here and there, but they had been shoved away from the windows.
Wind or some other kind of external pressure had entered through the windows.
“Was this part of that Hexennacht event from ten years ago?”
Kagami guessed that this world experienced a great calamity once a decade. And…
“The one ten years ago must have been especially bad.”
That would be why the girl named Horinouchi had shown something akin to anger.
She had to have a connection to Hexennacht.
“Saving her is going to be another difficult battle.”
She could fight.
She could re-summon her broken Normal Frame. The Phlogiston Heart indicator in the chest armor had not been completely destroyed.
…But how did she construct that Magino Frame thing?
Something that huge would not be easy to make. It would require a lot of knowledge as well as trial-and-error training. And Horinouchi would never give Kagami the time she needed to figure it out.
She wondered what to do as the sound of the carpet bombing approached. No, she could now see the cascade of destructive red light approaching through the city.
“I have no choice but to go for it.”
That said, re-summoning her Normal Frame would be dangerous. As soon as she did that, she would be detected and fired upon. Instead, she could fly as she was, repair the individual parts, and reach that Magino Frame.
…Should I try that?
As soon as she asked herself that, she noticed something in the shaking of the approaching bombing. A guest had arrived in the lounge.
It was a dragon child. It was the dragon servant she had let escape earlier.
The servant stared at the witch.
…I don’t understand.
It should not exist. It was a mistaken existence.
But she had let it escape.
And now she was fighting the 4th ranked witch. And instead of an official ranker battle, this seemed to be a personal fight over the servant.
She was a mistaken existence, too. Her spells strayed from the common witch system and she was challenging a ranker to a personal fight.
But to be “mistaken” from a ranker’s perspective was what their enemy, the Black Witch, would do.
Yet this witch was not the Black Witch.
So the dragon servant did not understand.
Why did she exist?
Why was she fighting?
Why was she not running away like it had?
She looked to it and scratched her head.
“I apologize for being selfish, but could you lend me your power?”
“I want to correct the mistakes of that witch up above.”
She said it.
“She should not be living a life that pours all of herself into the Black Witch.”
The servant trembled slightly.
Witches were the way of the world. Defeating the Black Witch was closely related to the very reason they existed.
But this person was rejecting that.
This person was facing the world head-on and not running.
It found the answer.
It understood something it wished it had not understood.
From the moment one chose to oppose the world, there was nowhere to run.
And that person was injured.
The dragon servant understood the situation. That was the type of creature it was. Even as a failure, it understood what mattered now.
It stepped forward. Instead of running, it stepped forward.
The step was surprisingly light.
Horinouchi detected an ether reading ahead of her bombardment.
She had detection spells searching each block and the one for the southeast gave a warning.
Her eyes raced in that direction and spotted something strange. An ether reading was rapidly increasing inside a group of buildings that had likely surrounded a train station.
In a spell circle, the ether output formed an upside-down funnel while superimposed on an image of the city. That reverse funnel swirled around and quickly reached the sky.
As soon as white light burst from the surface to the southeast, a report came from Koutarou.
“I have detected a Magino Frame summoning!!”
The ruins broke apart over several dozen meters.
The intense noise resembled breaking stone and it stabbed up into the sky.
Rubble, crust, and sand erupted upwards and a giant sword shot up from the earth.
And it did not stop there.
A great roar accompanied the destruction of the earth, a tremor ran through certain areas as if caught by the rising blade, and the ruins crumbled in those areas.
Finally, the giant sword flew into the sky.
This blue and white sword of a Holy Knight measured five hundred meters long.
Horinouchi watched from diagonally above.
…Is that a Magino Frame!?
She did not know how, but there had been a servant there. Kagami must have signed a contract with it to bind themselves as master and servant. And as a result…
“You’re there, aren’t you!?”
She was. The massive sword ascended at a speed that made the word “rapid” seem insufficient.
And Horinouchi saw a Holy Knight facing her from the accelerating Magino Frame.
The knight was not just white as before.
Just like the Magino Frame, she was colored blue and white and she held her Normal Device at the ready.
Kagami Kagami stood on top of the giant blade.
“Is that your-…?”
“Yes, it is!”
Kagami held her Normal Device toward Horinouchi.
“It looks like this is my justice!”
|Back to Chapter 4||Return to Main Page||Forward to Chapter 6|