Clash of Hexennacht:Volume1 Chapter 7
Chapter 7: The Morning Sun Rises
Look up at
The bright sun
Music could be heard.
The morning air warmed as the sun rose. It may have been summer, but the air was still and calm this early in the morning. And that clear air contained music.
“What is this? The American national anthem?”
A few people in track suits stepped out onto the roof and the girl they found there answered them.
“I’m about to have a match, so I want to focus.”
“Oh, sorry. Are we interrupting?”
The few who had arrived started back inside, but the girl raised a hand to stop them.
“You’ll make things more difficult for me if you do that. As the representative of the special equipment division, I represent all of you, so it’ll be more difficult for me if you treat me differently. After all…”
She swept aside the red hair falling just above her shoulder.
“America represents the world and its strength can reach any part of that world.”
“Oh, oh. How reliable.”
“Yeah, I suppose.”
The girl smiled bitterly and let the music play. The magic circle by her hand contained an acoustic spell which produced the music of a live orchestra.
The song was the American national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner”.
—Oh, say can you see by the dawn’s early light
—What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming?
—Whose broad stripes and bright stars thru the perilous fight,
—O’er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?
—And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air
—Gave proof thru the night that our flag was still there.
—Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
—O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?
“I don’t understand much of the English, but it sure does sound cool.”
“I’m glad to hear that. When I first heard my dad performing this, I was too young to know what it meant either.” The girl looked at the others. “But are you all okay?”
“If you’re talking about the pre-summer break assignment, then we took care of yours as well, special equipment representative. But if we aren’t treating you differently, you’ll fail if you fall behind on your homework.”
“Doing mine for me isn’t treating me differently?”
“In the special equipment division, we take care of each other. No matter where in the world they are or who they are, as long as they’re one of us, we’ll treat them the same. It would be a problem for us all if someone was dragging us down, so we won’t let that happen.”
“Thanks,” said the girl.
“Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
“O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?”
The special equipment building’s rooftop was covered in a solar power system and the students who had spent the night in the building working had gathered there to get some of the morning’s fresh air. Some light exercise was a daily ritual of the girls and more and more people had ended up joining in. Today, she smiled at the front of the group.
She looked back toward the western coast of Tokyo Bay.
A few different areas there were covered in metal scaffolding and the sounds of construction could already be heard.
The previous day’s large-scale battle and its after effects had put a large burden on some of the embankments and flood gates. They had spells and divine protection, but physical reinforcement would strengthen it all and increase the number of hooks for adding in divine protection.
“Oh? Are those our first years?”
“Some of them went to help with the construction. They made several ridiculous requests such as making it baroque or like Todai-ji, so who knows what kind of flood gate they’re going to end up with.”
The girl responded to that with a small smile and stretched a little.
She pulled her arm back toward her side and then thrust it forward.
“I’m going to be aiming a little higher, so it’s time I did what I need to do.”
Horinouchi did not like the headmaster’s office.
It was not a simple sort of dislike; it was a complicated kind. And that was especially true today.
First of all, its location was a problem. It and the other teacher’s officers could have been in one of the school buildings, but they were instead located in the library on the northeast end of the school grounds.
The library was another problem. It was divided between normal books and reference books, so one category was naturally larger and the library had been built in a pyramid shape to accommodate that. The teacher’s offices were inside that building, so when someone said they were visiting a teacher’s office, a few people would always make a triangular gesture above their head and ask, “You mean here?”
The Middle Eastern witches in particular would insist that it provided “pyramid power” and would therefore keep flowers from withering, so perhaps the headmaster had designed it to keep herself from aging.
The headmaster herself was yet another problem. After all…
…She worked with my mother.
The three witches who had competed for the representative spot during the previous Hexennacht were known as the Three Sages and the headmaster was one of them.
Horinouchi’s mother had ultimately been the representative, but Horinouchi had of course been born at that point and the headmaster was the only person in the school who had known her since she was a child.
She found the headmaster was the only person here that she could not take the initiative with.
And there was another problem with the headmaster’s office unique to today.
…What in the world is going on?
She could not help but wonder why she was standing in the headmaster’s office with this person.
It was Kagami Kagami.
She and that girl in a suit stood facing the headmaster.
“Now, then. …Miss Kagami, was it? Did you have a good night’s sleep?”
Kagami nodded while ignoring the silent glare Horinouchi was giving her.
A woman with glasses sat in front of her. Her semi-long hair was of a foreign color and she appeared to be in her early thirties, but as a witch, her appearance was not necessarily a reliable indicator of her age. However, Kagami did sense an indistinct aura coming from the woman.
…Should I call it a mystical aura?
She did not know the rules here. There were some things only she noticed and some things the others noticed as well, so she decided to set aside the headmaster’s aura for the moment.
“I did. Thank you very much, Lady Headmaster.”
“You don’t need to call me ‘lady’.”
“You have a thin handkerchief in your breast pocket, so I figured you had once worn a badge there.”
The headmaster flicked lightly at the handkerchief on her chest.
She smiled bitterly.
“…due to some old mischief.”
Horinouchi gave a blatant sigh, so there must have been a connection there. Regardless, the headmaster opened a magic circle with the hand she had used to flick the handkerchief.
The display had a floral shape.
“Anyway, this is the bill for using our dorms last night.”
“I would expect nothing less.”
“Now, now. To be honest, some witches are forceful enough to use their spatial teleportation to get out of paying, so I’m thankful you actually answered my invitation. Oh, and one other thing.”
She narrowed her eyes and threw another floral magic circle toward Horinouchi.
Horinouchi tilted her head and tried to avoid it.
“You don’t need to be that cruel,” said the headmaster with a bitter smile in her voice.
She pulled back her hand and the magic circle stopped next to Horinouchi’s face.
“What is this? Headmaster, could you tell me what you want before throwing things at me? It would be a real pain if it was a bomb, you know?”
“That’s for Koutarou. I had him get me some root vegetable seeds from Mount Kouya a while back and they have produced some lovely flowers, so I can send him back even more than he gave me.”
“Why can’t you send this to him directly?”
The headmaster placed a hand on her cheek, sighed, and shook her head.
“I just have no idea how to communicate with teenagers these days.”
It amused Kagami how much Horinouchi’s upper lip twisted, but the girl blushed as soon as she noticed Kagami watching.
“Wh-what are you looking at?”
“Oh, I just thought it was interesting that you too can give people looks like that.”
“That’s right, Miss Kagami. Miss Horinouchi is a lot cuter than she looks, so please take good care of her.”
“I will make sure to do so.”
They both ignored the voice yelling “do what!?”, but it still created a break in the conversation. The tension had already faded, so…
This seemed as good a time as any, so Kagami folded up the bill, placed it in her breast pocket, and spoke.
“To put it simply, I have come from another world.”
…She just said something odd!!
She’s really done it now! thought Horinouchi. What even is “another world”? What kind of made-up story is this?
“Yes, that happens sometimes, Miss Kagami.”
“Headmaster!? You believe her!?”
“Witches can come from anywhere. And Miss Horinouchi, how about we move onto you?”
Only then did Horinouchi remember that she had been called here along with Kagami.
It made no sense to her. If it was to inform her that her rank had changed, why summon Kagami as well? That girl seemed to have a way of ruining Horinouchi’s usual pace, but listening to the headmaster made it sound like Kagami was the main topic here, so…
“By the way, headmaster! Why am I here, too!?”
“Well,” said the headmaster. “Miss Kagami here may not belong to our school, but she still defeated you. I was wondering what to do about your change in rank.”
…You’re announcing my demotion in front of the person who defeated me?
Her pride did not like that at all, so she spoke up before the others could say anything more.
“I don’t mind if you lower me to 5th.”
That meant a drop in rank.
She had definitely lost the previous day’s match. It was being treated as a draw and there was probably some truth to that, but…
“Kagami is an outside witch with no preparation while I have the training and standards of a ranker.”
Their shells had cancelled each other out at the end of the match, but that was all the proof she needed.
Her own had been more powerful, but Kagami had found a way to respond. Horinouchi had also hurried and responded, but…
“I was a step behind. If you look past the result and focus on the flow of events and the momentum, then I was the clear loser. I have no objection to a drop in rank.”
“Please wait,” said Kagami with a tilt of the head. “I do not care about the ranks. As long as I can defeat the Black Witch, nothing else matters.”
“Weren’t you listening?”
How ignorant of the rules is she? Do I really have to say this here? No, I’m pretty sure I said it yesterday too, so has she already forgotten?
“Only one witch can challenge the Black Witch on Hexennacht!”
Kagami gave the headmaster a questioning look and the woman nodded.
“Allow me to explain.” She placed a hand on her chin. “Yes, that’s more or less how it works.”
“That is not an explanation!”
“Horinouchi, being too nitpicky is bad for your mental health.”
“That is none of your business!”
“I see.” Kagami waved a hand back and forth and bowed toward Horinouchi. “So I got in the way of your ambitions. I apologize.”
“That’s called the arrogance of a winner.”
Kagami raised her head with a corner of her mouth lightly raised.
“That is just who I am.”
While Horinouchi mentally clenched her teeth, the headmaster smiled and clapped her hands once.
“Okay,” she said. “Miss Kagami, your abilities look promising and you don’t seem to have any relatives, so I would like to invite you to join our academy.”
“Yes, that seems like an excellent decision.”
“Heh heh. I am glad to hear it, Miss Kagami. Yes.”
“Indeed. I am glad to have a stable home close to others who understand me.”
“Um, is it just me or are you two completely ignoring me!?”
At some point, Kagami had walked up next to her and she placed a hand on her shoulder.
“Uh… I look forward to working with you, Horinouchi…”
Kagami looked up at the ceiling before looking back at Horinouchi with a smile.
“My name is not Manko!”
She was afraid that would stick.
“Head Butler…or wait, are you acting as manager at the moment? Anyway, Lady Mitsuru has a message for you from the headmaster.”
“Yes, I am acting as the former at the moment. What is the message about?”
Koutarou fixed his suit’s collar. If it was not an emergency, he would have any message inspected at the command center first. It could be an annoyance, but he felt it was safer and took the pressure off of his master when she returned home.
…It is not good to live a rushed life.
That was his opinion as someone in a position that had served the Horinouchi family for generations. And in the mansion hall, the maid opened a magic circle to perform a double safety check.
“It is thanks for the seeds you provided her. Um…”
The maid summarized the contents.
“She wishes to invite Kagami – the witch who fought Lady Mitsuru – to the academy, so she wants the Horinouchi family to vouch for her. Also, a ranker cannot exactly stay in the dorms and there is an empty room in Lady Mitsuru’s living space, so she wants us to prepare it for that Kagami girl without asking Lady Mitsuru’s permission. Finally, Lady Mitsuru will be showing Kagami around the academy, so she wants you to provide assistance.”
“What does that have to do with thanking me for the seeds!?”
“That was what Lady Mitsuru said it was about when she forwarded the message.”
Before the maid had even finished her explanation, Koutarou had dashed out of the hall.
“I need to hurry to the academy! Check Lady Mitsuru’s movements via GPS! I need to be there waiting for her!”
“Head Butler, what about dinner?”
“I will stop at a convenience store on the way!”
“Then we’ll just do whatever,” said the maids as he left them behind and pulled a car key from his pocket.
He had to hurry. After all…
“The Head Butler of the Horinouchi family must be there before his master needs him!”
“Anyway, school is already out for the day, so I’ll show you around the academy real quick.”
Horinouchi chose the path they would take. If she was to give a simple tour of Shihouin Academy, there was only one real option.
…Down the center.
They first circled northward from the northeastern library.
“That floating school building to the north is for the honors division. It’s for those with abilities that don’t fit into the other divisions or those with exceptional power. Their lessons are mostly individualized guidance.”
But the two of them did not go there. A flower garden was located below the honors building and some students were tending to it, but…
“The powers of honors witches can be harder to use and they tend to be sharply focused in one direction, but you can think of them as the highest ranked division. However, when you look at the ranker ratios, their exceptional abilities make it easier to hit them with countermeasures, so very few of them make it to the higher levels.”
“But the initial attack works well, doesn’t it?”
Horinouchi could only agree with Kagami.
“Yes. The ones with more difficult countermeasures rise the farthest and they are only ever defeated because of the people who essentially act as ‘sacrifices’ until the countermeasure is ready.”
Horinouchi was one of those who stood atop that foundation. She did not look down on herself or pride herself for that fact. Tactics based on a system always came with rules.
At any rate, she chose to take the southward path. That route would cut across the school grounds from north to south.
It was also a path that she liked quite a bit. After all…
“Horinouchi, I see the center of the school has been made into a courtyard and nature park. Is that how witches do things?”
“Yes. It provides a place to focus your mind, to cultivate catalysts, and for the spirits to rest.”
And when the trees formed a roof overhead, something else could be glimpsed past them.
Tall structures were visible in every direction.
“Shihouin Academy has split its school building into the four cardinal directions. To the south is the general division, to the west is the special equipment division, to the east is the spell division, and to the north is the honors division.”
They passed by a few people. Horinouchi did not know if people were focused on her or if Kagami stood out in her suit, but the people stretched out on the grass and the people sitting in the trees holding brooms all looked their way. But she paid them no heed.
“The top four world witch rankings are each a part of one of those school buildings. I am #4 and essentially the representative of the general division.”
“I see,” replied Kagami. “Then I just have to defeat the higher ranks with you.”
“From what I heard, there is also a buddy system. If you join up with me, things should be a lot easier, don’t you think?”
“Stop deciding things for me!”
Horinouchi was reminded of when she had been forced to say goodbye to her mother.
When it came to a battle, one could be lost no matter how powerful they were. Battles between normal witches followed certain rules and someone could step in if there was any danger, but that was not true for a battle with the Black Witch. With the buddy system, one’s mistake could mean losing their partner or vice versa, so…
“I fight on my own.”
Kagami immediately gave a dignified nod and held out a hand to stop Horinouchi.
Kagami moved only her gaze to look around.
This was the courtyard. The students who had begun their afterschool training had grown silent and had taken fighting stances.
They were prepared to challenge Horinouchi at any moment.
The previous day’s battle had left her Suzaku exhausted.
…I could probably summon my Magino Frame, but a full-on battle would be difficult.
However, these students were not about to overlook that. Not to mention that Horinouchi had shot back at the Black Witch. If these other students were to defeat her…
“I take it they are looking for an opening so they can defeat us and improve their rank,” said Kagami without bothering to whisper. “Wonderful. If everyone here can unify their hearts like this, then I look forward to when we can settle this.”
She began to walk in a random direction and tapped Horinouchi on the shoulder.
“Where can I get a good view?”
“To the south. If we pass through the general school building and leave through the front, we will reach a pier.”
“Then let’s go there,” said Kagami with her back still turned. “This is a nice place and I have something to tell you, Horinouchi.”
“Head Butler! The target is moving south! Most likely to the pier!”
“Ehhh!? Wait! Didn’t you just say she was headed west to the cafeteria!? Now I have to make a half circuit of the road around the academy!”
“Quite complaining and get going, Head Butler. You’re a man, aren’t you? If you delay Lady Mitsuru even a second, every last maid is going to greet you with fake smiles tomorrow.”
“Gender equality! I demand gender equality!”
- ↑ The kanji for Mitsuru + the feminine suffix “ko” = “Manko”, which also means vagina.
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