Clash of Hexennacht:Volume1 Chapter 6
Chapter 6: Showing Off Justice
The blade thrust toward the sky.
It shot above the destroyed and abandoned city and toward the great vermilion bow that had its back to the moon in the heavens above.
The bow and sword were both colossal.
No one may have been looking up from the empty city below, but their five hundred meter lengths allowed much more distant people to see them.
The sword accelerated toward the sky and the great bow there. Its first movement after appearing was to ascend in a straight line with its rear accelerators fully activated.
Meanwhile, the great bow showed no sign of evading even though preparatory light was filling the central acceleration cannon. The sword raced onward with the unwavering gaze of someone catching up to a friend and tapping them on the shoulder.
A girl stood on the sword’s guard.
The armored girl pointed forward as the wind swept back her hair decorations made of light.
Beyond the large finger of her power arm, she saw her opponent: a girl in shrine maiden garb standing on the great bow’s upper radome.
The sword spoke as it picked up even more speed.
“I have a question, Horinouchi.”
The bow responded without falling back.
“What is it, Kagami Kagami!?”
As they spoke, the sword opened up. Sparks scattered from the moving parts rubbing together and the sub-frame above the internal frame activated. By the time the sword split apart and a cannon jutted out, light had filled the rear shell formation area and accelerator.
Meanwhile, the light in the vermilion bow also grew.
A voice spoke to that light.
“I had a thought.”
That thought being…
“You have your back to the moon, but that goes for the majority of this fight as well.”
“When was the last time you looked up at the moon without thinking much of it?”
Horinouchi felt emotion welling up deep in her chest.
It was true she had kept her back to the moon during this battle. After all, she was a sharpshooter. It was best for her to remain above her opponent. But…
She saw her shadow falling on a giant building below.
The summer sun was high in the sky. The moonlight deep in that blue sky was weak and meaningless now, but the way her shadow fell meant she had her back to the heavens.
She had not looked directly up at the moon.
Had that begun with this battle? No, it had not.
“I made a decision.”
Honestly, she thought. Did this opponent judge my actions and feel a meaning in them that had nothing to do with combat?
“I made a decision.”
She had done so ever since losing something precious to her.
“I decided I would only look up at the sky once I could do so forever more.”
“Wonderful,” said Kagami. “And when that happens, I may never be able to look up in the sky again.”
“Listen, Horinouchi.” Without answering her question, Kagami raised her pointing finger. “Let us settle this.”
The shellfire vertically linking the sky began from above.
On the back of the great bow, the spell bowstring was pulled to its limit and then released to strike the shell accelerator’s hammer.
The twang of the bowstring shook the sky and ether light rippled out to a diameter of a dozen kilometers as the shell was fired.
A chorus of ringing much like a shrine’s large bell shot straight down for five hundred meters. Launched by that sound and spraying light, a massive shell was fired.
It was shaped like an arrow, it measured over four hundred meters long, and it left the great vermilion bow to pierce the sky.
The tip was enough to split the atmosphere and create an explosion of air. The arrow made of ether soared through the resultant vacuum so it could tear into the sword that had nearly approached to close range. Meanwhile, the blade had yet to complete its firing preparations.
The shell had yet to fully form, but the accelerator was filled with light.
It would fire as soon as the shell was complete, but the great bow had already launched its attack.
However, the girl on the sword’s guard did not lower her raised hand.
She stared straight at the coming arrow, the great bow, the girl standing on it, the blue sky behind all that, and the moon.
“I hope it reaches.”
She did not command it to reach.
“Give me a path, wings raised toward the moon.”
Just as the great bow’s “attack” would change its name to a “hit”, the figure on the sword swung down her hand.
Horinouchi saw Kagami give the order to fire far too late.
…She won’t make it in time!
The acceleration pathway was filled with light so it could fire as soon as the shell was formed, but Horinouchi’s own attack was already entering the muzzle.
She had won.
When the Magino Frame named Akerindou was fired at full power from close range, it ranked near the very top of any Magino Frame.
She had met those conditions here.
Kagami’s attack would be too late and it would be destroyed.
Horinouchi had won.
Part of her was disappointed by that, but she did not know if that was due to conceit or over this loss of the ability to admonish her current state.
“Break her, attack of Suzaku!”
With that cry, she cast a spell on the arrow. Akerindou helped pressurize it and a further acceleration spell was installed. And this was a direct installation rather than one that affected a certain range.
It went to break her opponent, but she heard a sound just before it did.
It was the scraping of metal and the scattering of sparks.
It was the sound of the shell formation system sending the shell into the acceleration pathway.
The cold sound came from the very back of Kagami’s sword. Was she uselessly trying to fire her cannon, or…
“It can’t be…”
As Horinouchi spoke, the power came.
It was a cannon firing.
The shell raced down the sword’s acceleration pathway.
Horinouchi’s own shell destroyed the muzzle and seemed to dig into it.
That proved to be a problem.
When it hit, the arrow bent. It was slight, but its straight trajectory was thrown ever-so-slightly off, the pressure focused on the tip, and it swelled out. Needless to say, the vermilion arrow would then demonstrate its penetrative power, but…
“Did she time her attack to counter mine!?”
Horinouchi watched as the sword was destroyed.
Her attack should have caused it to fall apart and then split apart further down, but it had destroyed its own tip instead.
The force had come from within, and…
…I was right!
The destructive power did not just tear into Kagami’s sword.
The tip of the vermilion arrow was destroyed and it split apart as if deflected. A blue shell shot out from its center. That was the attack fired by Kagami’s Magino Frame.
She had targeted the arrow in the instant it hit as a counterattack.
“And you slowed the formation of the shell to make a longer and skinnier compressed shell, didn’t you!?”
The straight line of power was clearly skinnier than the muzzle the arrow had struck.
Kagami’s Magino Frame was an outdated Holy Knight-style and it did not specialize in shellfire.
That must have been why she decided to compress the shell even further and build up even more acceleration.
She had filled the acceleration pathway with light ahead of time so she could charge it up with an additional acceleration spell.
…And to fine-tune it so she could fire the skinnier shell without losing stability!
Horinouchi did not think she had been conceited.
She had simply fired Akerindou in the formal fashion.
Kagami however had used any means necessary to “get back at” her.
“In that case…!”
Horinouchi did not hesitate.
She set up a barrier, using her gaze to select the empty space between Akerindou and Kagami’s sword. She then cast a spatial stability spell on her own objects in that range.
She did not even think about whether she would make it in time. She simply cast the spell without looking down at her moving fingers.
The spatial fixation also corrected the objects’ shapes to supplement their own indentation.
The spell cast on the arrow returned the swelling and splitting vermilion power to its original straight line.
The arrow tore into Kagami’s attack and attempted to crush it, but Horinouchi saw something in that instant.
That something was Kagami.
The fingertip she had swung down to signal her attack was now pointing straight at Horinouchi.
In that instant, the two powers between them exploded.
Both shells could not withstand the collision of power and were destroyed. This led to a massive explosion.
Koutarou looked up at the sky where the two powers collided and collapsed.
Below the moon, vermilion and blue explosions of light were accompanied by intense noise.
Horinouchi’s Akerindou and Kagami’s sword were swallowed up by the explosions, but Kagami’s half-destroyed Magino Frame collided with the other.
The men being healed cried out as they looked into the sky.
“The two Magino Frames…!”
They were intertwined and falling.
The sword’s blade had almost entirely broken away as it stabbed into Akerindou which had lost most of its bow shape.
A transmission arrived. The spell circle had been sent from the operation room built below the Horinouchi mansion. The Horinouchi family had sent representatives to fight the Black Witch since ancient times. Just like similar families, corporations, and military organizations, it possessed a system to provide backup for those representatives.
One of the maids inside the command center spoke to him.
“Lady Mitsuru’s Magino Frame is falling!”
“I can see that! Where is it going to-…?”
“You can’t tell?”
“I-I can tell it’s generally falling to the east of Tokyo Bay, but give me the details!”
While thinking the maids were being overly strict, he recalled that they were former witches themselves. To them, Mitsuru was a memento of the previous generation and their hope.
…Ah, they’re treating me like the unneeded man!
But regardless, he held the position of manager. Not even he knew if he had anything to be proud of outside that position, but he did have his ability as a butler.
At any rate, he received the requested details.
“Northeast of Tokyo Bay…Old Makuhari!”
The bay was the best place to see the fall and destruction.
A school was located at the center of Tokyo Bay.
As those inside scanned the two Magino Frames falling to the northeast, the school buildings had their shutters closed and a defensive spell barrier was placed in the sky above.
But despite the security measures, a few people were visible on the school buildings’ rooftops.
First, there was the western building engraved with the words “Special Equipment” which was covered by a solar power system.
Next, there was the eastern building engraved with the word “Spell” which was a midair building with no entrance on the surface.
Finally, there was the northern building which was a fully floating honors building.
The people atop or in front of those buildings spoke their various thoughts.
“So it’s finally happening.”
“Mother, this flower is finally blooming.”
Afterwards, they all returned to their duties. They turned their backs on the falling objects and looked up at the moon in the sky.
A moment later, an extremely massive quake ran through the earth at the northeast end of Tokyo Bay.
The sound resembled a solid impact or a crashing wave and it accompanied the explosion produced by a great bow and a sword.
The battle was not yet over, but…
“Has it been settled yet or not?” someone muttered.
In that moment, new lights appeared across the school.
They were spell circles. They displayed a warning, but that warning indicated a true emergency.
<Warning: Shifting into Fifth Security Mode. The Black Witch’s output has been detected.>
And that was not all.
“I can see it.”
Someone pointed it out from the spell building’s rooftop. The moon in the center of the sky was emitting light.
The Black Witch had been sealed in that moon which was beginning to act.
Koutarou spoke in response to the spell circle warnings opening here and there.
“Everyone, ensure the security and peace of your posts! Observation Team, record your observations of Lady Mitsuru and her opponent!”
“Manager! Don’t we need to observe the moon!?”
“Someone else will record the moon!”
Koutarou had a hunch.
…What did the Black Witch react to!?
That was obvious. The Black Witch’s heart had been moved by the battle between two witches below. One of those witches was the daughter of her opponent from the previous confrontation, and the other one…
…She clearly knows the Black Witch!
The scale of their battle was not unheard of for witches, but it had progressed oddly. So…
“We will record this battle and its result!”
That was enough. After all…
“The Black Witch has shown an interest in the two of them!”
As soon as he said it, a pale light was added to the summer sunlight.
It was a heavenly light.
That light seemed to envelop the moon, it formed a ring of ether, and it took form at the moon’s north pole.
It looked small from where they were, but it was actually large enough to form an angel’s halo over the moon.
The halo spread, formed an ellipse, and circled to the back of the moon.
It almost looked like an eyeball with the moon as the pupil.
There was no escaping that massive gaze.
And that was not all.
Light gathered in front of the moon.
“Manager! The amount of ether detected on the lunar surface is spiking!”
It was obvious what was happening.
“The Black Witch is interfering with the seal! She’s releasing her power!”
The communication officer’s voice filled the air as the light in the sky trembled. The ether light gained a shadow, grew black, and…
“It’s an arm!”
It really is, thought Koutarou. A long, slender black arm crawled out from the moon as if it to connect the sky with the falling wreckage of the two witches.
Destruction and a fall were synonymous.
Horinouchi realized the impact of her landing had vanished and that the Magino Frame had begun to destroy itself.
Akerindou’s great bow was half destroyed and it was losing its acceleration pathway for shells.
She opened a spell circle to check and saw a fatal crack in the Phlogiston Heart. It had not completely broken, but it would be unable to endure the damage and it would fall apart.
…And my mood feels about the same.
She could not continue to fight like this. That resignation stopped the heating of her heart, but…
Her Magino Frame’s armor had shattered and fallen and she could see the shards turning to light and vanishing, but beyond that, she saw a colossal eyeball floating in the heavens and she saw a slender black hand reaching its claws her way.
The black hand and arm approaching through the sky trailed black light and she could not imagine how much power it took to create something like that.
She knew what it was.
It was a portion of the Black Witch’s power. It had escaped the seal and it had to be more of an illusion than anything else. If it had the physical might something that size would normally wield, it would have disturbed the space between the moon and the earth and the sky would have split open.
That was an illusion. It may have been powerful, but it was not the Black Witch’s true power.
But even knowing that, a different understanding led her heart to tremble.
The Black Witch was focused on her.
She felt a chill because she recalled certain words.
I have always kept my back to the moon.
If the Black Witch had wanted, she could have suddenly grabbed Horinouchi from behind.
She had been naïve. Or should she say the situation had “corrected” itself. This was the sort of relationship the Black Witch and other witches were meant to have.
The black arm reached out quickly, earnestly, longingly. Its size had already become clear.
“It covers the sky!”
The opened hand was as wide as the moon.
It already hid the moon and the color black spread across Tokyo’s sky.
The massive fingers seemed to envelop everything and only the center of the palm could still be seen from here.
The fingers had surpassed Japan and were likely darkening the area from the central Pacific to Eastern Europe.
Horinouchi wondered what she could even do.
She heard a voice.
She turned to her right and saw someone familiar rushing her way.
It was Kagami Kagami. The girl’s Magino Form was even more broken than Horinouchi’s, but she directly observed the other girl.
“Is your Phlogiston Heart still active!?”
Her voice filled the air.
“I wish to borrow your power!”
Horinouchi did not understand what was happening, but she felt an odd sense of trust in the voice she heard.
She had been fighting this enemy not long before. The girl had unknown origins, had opposed her for unknown reasons, and had harmed people close to her.
But they had the same objective.
…And this person…
Even now, she did not look away from the moon.
Had there ever been someone like this? Every ten years, this world experienced Hexennacht, which might as well have been a ritual sacrifice, yet this girl stared fearlessly into the sky even as the Black Witch’s power approached.
She reached out her hand, her power arm. She had already arrived right in front of Horinouchi.
“What are you going to do?”
“That is simple.”
Kagami swung her arms outward.
“I must strike her!”
Horinouchi knew what Kagami was going to do. She had seen the girl do it several times already.
The power of this witch named Kagami Kagami was most likely of the craft-style, which used some kind of special technique. The other witches used a ritual process to draw ether from the ley lines and form motors and armor from it.
…But she can suddenly “grab” the ether and “process” it.
The word “creation” may have been the closest match, but it was not an impossible technique. Some witches would improve themselves through divine protection and modifications, essentially turning their very existence into a spell.
However, that all came from their own spells and it reduced and heated the ether they possessed.
This girl was different.
There had not been an ether reading from the very beginning. That had not changed even now. Not only was it low for a witch, she had less than a normal person. Nevertheless, she could grab and process ether far more quickly than Horinouchi.
“I wish to borrow your power.”
How could she sound so confident?
Horinouchi did not understand.
There was so much here she did not understand.
But she could trust in herself. She had reached Rank #4 and became the Eastern Japanese representative because she had never allowed herself to be shaken.
Then, she thought. I will trust in what I’ve seen.
The girl in front of her could process ether and she could strategize. Horinouchi was not sure she could say this girl was her equal, but their battle had ended in a draw.
The servant must have been exhausted because it was sitting cross-legged in the spell circle on her shoulder.
…Are you really a bird?
She sometimes wondered that, but she let it slide since there was no real meaning in saying otherwise. She felt that was the adult thing to do. Anyway, the Suzaku seemed to have understood what she was thinking.
<Magino Frame: Release Portion of Structure>
<Warning: Releasing a portion of the structure will accelerate collapse of Phlogiston Heart. 15 Seconds.>
“I will lend you my power!”
Instead of leaving her Magino Frame to fall apart, she returned it to ether on her own. That would indeed be a source of power for Kagami who could process ether.
“There’s no time!”
“I am aware.” Kagami smiled back over her shoulder. “You have my thanks.”
Koutarou realized he had made the right decision.
One of the observers pointed at the opposite shore of Tokyo Bay rather than the black hand grabbing at them from the sky.
“Lady Mitsuru and her opponent’s Magino Frames are fusing!!”
He could see it about twenty-five kilometers away. Despite that great distance, the five hundred meter structure rose tall in his vision.
The air shook from the shrine bell-like ringing of Akerindou’s motors and the church bell-like ringing of Kagami’s sword.
The two sounds never joined together. They simply travelled solemnly and separately through the air.
Then the two Magino frames took a single form.
The sword was at the center and the great bow extended horizontally from the guard.
The weapon resembled both a bow gun and a great sword, but it was over a kilometer long.
Koutarou started speaking, but then shook his head.
“That cannot catch up to her mother.”
He swallowed the word “yet” and shouted to the others.
He listened to the ringing of the two types of bells and looked into the sky.
The five extended black fingers may have already reached the exosphere. They were beginning to gain a coloration closer to blue than black. The palm seemed to rapidly distort and expand due to the atmosphere’s lensing effect, and…
“After ten years, the Horinouchi family’s strike will reach the Black Witch!”
His shout was immediately followed by the world shaking.
The kilometer long cannon had fired its full power into the sky.
The recoil could not be buffered.
The shockwave of the blast created electrical discharges in the sky over a radius of several dozen kilometers and the ruined buildings to the north and east of Tokyo Bay were swept and blasted away.
As the wreckage flew into the air, stabbed into other ruins, and spread destruction as they rolled, the pressure of the blast itself shook the bay.
The bottom of the bay came into view along the coast of Makuhari on the northeastern end of the vast body of water.
The mud, sand, and the base of the broken manmade islands and reclaimed land were revealed wet in the sunlight and the water swelled outward.
The sound was not that of waves.
The water itself was compressed and seawater twisted and roared up from below the swelling ocean surface. It sounded a lot like the creaking of a ship.
In the center of the bay, Shihouin Academy reacted most quickly to the movement and noise. The academy’s defense system had already activated defense spells, but it now erected barrier walls which rose from the ocean to stop the coming tsunami. While sending warnings to the coast, their defense system sent barriers out as far into the ocean as it could to break the waves. This was only possible due to the relatively shallow depth of Tokyo Bay and the school also contacted U.A.H.J. and an organization founded by influential families such as the Horinouchi family and by the municipal office of reconstructed Yokohama. They cast wide-range spells to stop the waves on the coast and to secure and reinforce the waterways needed to allow the tsunami’s water to escape.
<Warning: Shockwave will arrive in 7 seconds.>
It felt like a physical blow.
From east to west, it transformed the tsunami into a massive amount of ocean spray.
That was the might of the explosive blast. It split the ocean open as a rapid vibration, turned to rain, and…
The eastern windows on the coastal buildings shook and some cracked.
But everyone saw a certain sight through those windows or above their lowered heads.
In the center of the heavens above, an attack flew from the skyward-aimed sword bow.
It pierced through the black hand trying to envelop the entire world.
It flew in a straight line.
As if to show just how defenseless the spread fingers of the black arm were, the shot of light pierced through it up to the elbow.
The destruction came afterwards.
The forearm was the first to scatter. The area a bit above the wrist swelled out from within and burst like splitting bark.
The rest was simple.
As the destruction raced up to the elbow, the wrist and hand were left in the sky, seemingly forgotten. They lost their strength, but they were not forgiven.
The hole in the palm spread from the other side and the fingers thrust outwards at crooked angles.
Then it finally collapsed.
It vanished in an instant.
Pale ether light shaped like an arm scattered in the heavens and finally disappeared.
The destruction from earth seemed to stop when it reached the upper arm, but the arm no longer functioned and that was enough.
It all vanished toward the moon and only the eye ring remained around the moon.
But that too gathered together as if narrowing.
By the time the people stood up, threw open their windows or ran from their homes, and cheered, the black sky had vanished.
All that remained was the moon floating in the summer sky. And…
“Where’s the witch’s blade!?”
They all turned toward eastern Tokyo Bay.
By then, nothing remained. There were no rain clouds in the sky, but a salty rain fell. The approach of the tsunami left some of the coastal areas soaked and the receding waves roared through the waterways.
Everyone was seeing and experiencing a temporary change, but nothing remained in the sky or on the earth.
“What was that?”
The next thing they knew, the rain had passed and everything was back to normal.
Horinouchi checked on the situation as she heard Kagami’s voice and saw the other girl lower her shoulders.
The Magino Frame had vanished and they stood on the roof of an abandoned building. Only the blue sky and white moon could be seen above and the waves below had returned to the bottom of the bay. They were picking up speed, rolling the underwater wreckage and stones around and crashing against the ruins.
The underwater structures moved and crashed together and the ocean produced a kind of white noise as it tried to expel the air it had taken in.
She heard distant sirens from the opposite coast.
Their attack had caused secondary damages.
…We aren’t that much different from the Black Witch.
But the Horinouchi family, U.A.H.J., and other countermeasure organizations seemed to be functioning properly. The coastal areas were allowing the waves to escape and temporarily accumulate in the ruins and the only obvious damage being reported was broken windows from the shockwave. Of course, some of the shrines and temples near the coast had their ether tanks burst due to the backflow of their ether capacity support systems.
However, Horinouchi was focused on something else. The magic circle containing praise from Koutarou was crushed by the praise coming from the maids in the command center, but she ignored that.
She had distinctly heard something during the cannon blast.
When the black arm had been destroyed and the moon had been revealed, that girl had spoken.
“I finally found you, Shouko!”
Who was that? No, more importantly…
…Who are you?
Horinouchi did not know, so she focused on what she could see before her.
Kagami’s entire body wobbled unsteadily. At the same time, she released her Magino Form and returned to her suit.
She was falling. No, collapsing.
It may have been exhaustion or the release of her tension, but Horinouchi had also lost her Magino Form.
She now wore her school uniform.
She tried to catch Kagami by the back and shoulders and found she was surprisingly light. So as not to hold her too tightly, she supported her by wrapping an arm around her.
A white and blue dragon servant stood at their feet.
Horinouchi remembered that she had helped with the experiments concerning that servant. She had had high hopes for it, but when the decision had been made to dispose of it as a failure, she had arranged a certain plan after taking the final readings.
She had made sure the lock spell would release if the servant wished to be free.
She could not let it just wait in its cage to be disposed of. That was hypocritical considering how the other servants like that had been treated, but when there was a connection to her…
After her mother had lost and died, she had heard some people lamenting.
Mankind had meant to seal away the Black Witch, but they had actually surrounded themselves by her cage where they simply waited to be killed.
Horinouchi had not wanted the servant to be in the same situation.
She had been looking down on the creature as she had granted it the right to live and die as it pleased, but she had also had a certain thought.
If she could end Hexennacht during this generation, that would no longer be hypocritical.
And so she had promised herself she would do just that.
But she had not expected the servant to choose the western ruins as its escape route. She had assumed it would go east, away from the danger and the people, but some part of its subconscious may have felt a connection to people. She had sent her tracking spell to the west, so she had ultimately caused Koutarou some trouble.
It may have only been a small fraction, but she had torn into the Black Witch’s power with this girl she had met after all that.
Had she done the right thing? And if so…
Wondering what would happen, she looked to the person she could ask.
She held her in her arms and looked to her face.
…“I finally found you”?
There had been no resentment in her voice. It had only contained anger towards something. And it had not been a simple rebuke. It had likely been a mixture of several different thoughts.
“What does this mean?”
There was a slight smile on the unconscious girl’s face, but who could say if it was just the relaxing of her muscles as she passed out or if it was an expression of her emotions. Horinouchi still understood nothing.
“Who are you?”
She heard the beating of the air in the distance as Koutarou’s helicopter came to retrieve them.
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