Clash of Hexennacht:Volume2 Chapter 12
Chapter 12: But I Move Away
Because I only move somewhat away
I can’t say goodbye
Because I’ve always been alone
I can’t say goodbye
Horinouchi felt cold.
…Where am I?
With that question in her heart, her eyes sensed darkness.
She had blacked out. The annihilation scythe of Mary’s Magino Device had cut into space. That cut had trapped her and blown her away.
Akerindou had altered its path to avoid the scythe blade, but the movement had been much like an instantaneous spatial leap and it had apparently put a great amount of stress on her health management divine protections. She was conscious, but…
She got up.
There was a floor there. She was on top of Akerindou’s radome, which was her usual spot, but…
Something was wrong with her inner ear because she lost her balance and collapsed to the side.
This isn’t good, she thought, but there were no warnings of an enemy attack or ether readings. Then she saw something beyond Akerindou’s floor and the emergency enhancement spell circle for her health management divine protections.
It was the night sky. She saw the moon there. She saw the Black Witch’s home.
But something was wrong with the sky around it. It was definitely night, but the darkness was oddly thick. And…
She got up as if crawling and saw something down below.
She thought it was the clouds. She thought a sea of clouds was flowing swiftly below Akerindou like a white fog.
But she was wrong.
One of the spell circles around her told her the answer. It gave the temperature.
That can’t be, she thought. It was the end of summer and positive thirty-two would make sense, so why was it negative? Besides, wasn’t the negative thirties when you could start hammering nails with a banana?
“Why am I bringing up that banana?”
On her shoulder, the Suzaku responded by spitting loudly away from her, so was it really a bird?
But she more or less understood. The health management had seemed delayed because it had been dealing with the surrounding temperature first.
Her health was quickly returning. She shook her head and the scenery came into focus. She could now tell what those white clouds below Akerindou were.
“A great blizzard covering the surface!?”
Someone shouted from a spell circle. It was Koutarou.
“We know where you are! You are at southern latitude 90! You are above the South Pole!”
…She really got them there!
Hunter clicked her tongue and brushed up her bangs.
“She was stretching out her annihilation scythe during the whole battle!”
The Rank 2 had likely sent out an annihilation in the early stages of the battle and let it continue flying without swinging it back. She must have sent it out and accelerated it while it was as thin as a hair.
Then when the other two had gotten close and summoned their Magino Frames, she had swung the annihilation.
It had torn into space itself, sent her and Kagami far to the north, and sent Horinouchi far to the south.
Part of Hunter had trouble believing that was possible, but she could fire her own shells that far. To intercept the Black Witch’s descent from the moon, one needed as long a range as possible and anyone in the single digit Ranks would have a way of doing that.
The Rank 2’s annihilation had just shown a hint of that. No matter where the Black Witch descended to the earth, that annihilation could reach her.
“Just how much power does she have?”
Hunter was honestly disturbed by that. After all…
“If she could ignore the attenuation of the scythe, she could split the earth in two.”
She had sent Horinouchi and Kagami to opposite poles, so her annihilation had stretched to a half-circumference of the earth, which was even longer than the diameter.
…That’s pretty great!
If Hunter was still Rank 3, how would she have taken on this opponent?
Would she fire from afar or charge in close? One point of consideration was the Rank 2’s lack of backup such as American U.A.H.F. or the Horinouchi Group. That meant Hunter would have had an advantage by knowing her location, but…
“In that case, she might set up a net of annihilation over the earth.”
She started wondering how many scythes the Rank 2 had, but…
“Hunter! We spotted a red bird!”
She checked the spell circle by her hand and indeed saw a vermilion bird in the air above the wide area of terrain called the South Pole. Based on the display information, it was footage from the geostationary satellite over the South Pole.
That was Horinouchi, but…
“Have you still not spotted the North Pole ones!?”
“All three geostationary satellites over the North Pole were lost! We’re moving in the nearby ones!”
The Rank 2 had really gotten them. The way those two could easily detect satellites in orbit was a real problem.
But in that case, Mary’s intent was obvious.
“She’s pretty blatantly trying to split up Kagami and Horinouchi!”
Based on Hunter’s own experience, those two’s strength came from the buddy system. Horinouchi was entirely focused on long-range attack power and Kagami handled the close- and mid-range attack and defense, so they shared the roles quite well.
…They’re like an energetic hound and hunter.
That made Hunter think of her own family name, but even if the Hedgehog played both those roles, it had lost to those two in battle.
Those two might just be the strongest.
But to put it another way, they were not the strongest on their own.
And Kagami was most likely fighting Mary after being captured by her.
…What do we do!?
The two partners had been sent to opposite ends of the planet.
Their fastest method of travel would be the swing-by system, but that still took over forty minutes to move halfway around the planet. The North Pole battle would likely be over by then and Mary would have had plenty of time to recover.
Besides, American U.A.H.F. could not directly support those two.
“Representative Hunter! We have managed to observe the North Pole from a shallow position! As for the two witches…”
After a pause to check, the report immediately continued.
“They’re already fighting! …The atmosphere over the North Pole has split!”
In the ceiling-less dome of clouds at the bottom of the bright night, Kagami began fighting a girl bearing the colors of the grim reaper.
She could imagine how they had gotten here and why Horinouchi was not with them.
…Was it that spatial leap using the annihilation!?
It technically used great speed, but it was nearly a means of teleportation.
Unlike Hunter’s swing-by system, it could take her wherever she wanted, but since the starting point and ending point were bound together, she probably could not stop partway through.
…But it can cover half of the earth’s circumference!?
They were currently flying in circles with the front of their Devices pointed at each other
Kagami was firing her secondary cannons, but the shots did not reach.
Mary’s Device was a close-range type. It was a scythe, but that meant it had decent reach. It could reach farther than Kagami’s great sword.
But the current age focused on cannon-fire, so did that difference in reach even matter?
That was likely why the Holy Knight-style and Executioner-style had vanished.
The girl going by the name Mary would not have known that.
When she had entered this world and taken on her witch’s form, the world had given her the traits that suited her.
Namely, the executioner.
Who was that execution for?
Kagami fired, but the shots did not reach.
The outdated executioner had a long reach and almost no actual armor. With the cloak wrapped around her, she could not move around with much speed.
But this world had given her those traits.
It had given those traits to the girl with the annihilation spell.
The reach that outdid a sword could now extend almost endlessly and she could erase any attacks instead of using armor. And instead of moving around normally, she could tear into space itself and send herself flying.
This world had given her an appropriate form.
Kagami continued firing, but the shots did not reach.
Kagami alone was worn down. So…
“I suppose I should be thorough.”
She made up her mind and thought, What is wrong with that?
“The bond between teacher and student should not be broken. No matter what the student might think, the teacher can have her own thoughts. Plus, you have not actually gone against our mutual understanding.”
In other words…
“You have not taken the Black Witch’s side, have you?”
Mary put up her defenses when she heard her “teacher’s” voice for the first time in so long.
That was exactly right. She was trying to defeat her teacher, but that did not mean she was on the Black Witch’s side. In fact…
“I prepared this confrontation because I do not think you are fit to stand on the battlefront against the Black Witch.”
“I see. …And you feel differently about Horinouchi?”
“Yes.” Mary nodded. “Once I defeat you, I will call off this Ranker battle. …I have decided Horinouchi’s power as the Rank 3 will be useful on Hexennacht, but she will not oppose me on her own. That is my purpose here. To eliminate you from Hexennacht. …After all, if we place our hopes in you, a hole is bound to open. You will run away, betray us, and transform our hope into despair. I cannot allow someone like that on the battlefront.”
“I am the only one that knows that, so I am the only one that can stop you. Only I have the justification needed to do so.”
She stopped speaking there.
She only needed to raise her hand and increase the range of her secondary cannons.
“I have already built up my willpower.”
She tore at the world.
“Words are only needed to defeat or to build one’s willpower. So…”
She moved forward. She advanced to defeat the opponent she needed to defeat.
“Hit her with your anger, Ira.”
“That’s why she did this…?”
Horinouchi gasped at the words from the North Pole battle that were sent from American U.A.H.F. to Hunter, from Hunter to Koutarou, and from Koutarou to her.
…This Ranker battle was meant to eliminate Kagami?
Mary had a reason.
Kagami had betrayed her and not opposed the destruction of her world.
As a result, she did not trust Kagami concerning the coming Hexennacht. She was afraid Kagami would flee at a critical moment and leave a hole in the front line.
To her, eliminating Kagami would eliminate a portion of their fighting force while also eliminating that fear.
To everyone else, Kagami was a great addition to their fighting force. Even the headmaster accepted that.
It would likely be concluded that eliminating Kagami was unrealistic.
And that was likely why Mary had decided to deal with her fear as a personal grudge. Because she had a proper reason to eliminate Kagami.
So, but, even so…
“You can’t do that.”
Perhaps Horinouchi was naïve, perhaps she needed to be more heartless when it came to a battle with the fate of the world hanging in the balance, and perhaps she was being blinded by the presence of such an intense partner. But…
“You can’t do that.”
She spoke the words that came to mind.
“What value is there in a world where personal grudges can influence destiny?”
In the setting sun, the witch who had been involved in the creation of this world had shed tears over the death of a single person.
If this world was a collection of such things…
“It can accept a personal grudge with nothing more than a single tear.”
Yes, she thought. Let’s do something about this.
She raised her voice. The spell circle footage from the North Pole showed the battle had already begun. Something white covered the sky like a dome. Was it clouds, or…
It did not matter. What she had to do was hope.
“I need to hurry back to Kagami! I need to decide how to do that, so send me all the data you have!”
The maids celebrated, but Koutarou simply nodded.
“Everyone, work quickly to grasp the situation. Use every spell, sense, and piece of knowledge you have to guide Lady Mitsuru toward a way to reach Lady Kagami.”
“What about you, Head Butler? Are you not going to do anything?”
“No,” he replied. “My job is the very last one. …And that means I have to wait for all of you, so hurry!”
As soon as he spoke, the maid relaying the transmissions from America turned his way.
“The audio and video footage from Lady Kagami has been cut off! The Rank 2’s annihilation has surrounded the battlefield like a barrier!”
Kagami had the following thought about Mary’s plan:
…Not only is she keeping me from escaping, but she can bring these walls together to finish this if she needs to.
Annihilation scythes were racing around and creating the walls of a dome about sixty kilometers across.
She was repeatedly firing and managing the annihilation. That cut Kagami off from the outside, and…
As Kagami fired her secondary cannons and had Dikaiosyne quickly sink down, the scythes creating the surrounding walls were pulled back to Mary’s Device. That power was invisible, but its strength and range could be seen with the perception spell used through Dikaio.
The blades were thirty kilometers long and five kilometers wide.
They curved around as both scythes and whips.
Plus, only three of the Magino Device’s nine scythes were used to create the walls. The remaining six were continuing to fire toward Kagami.
Kagami relied on the perception spell to launch her five hundred meter Device around.
She could not rely on her armor.
As for speed, her opponent could evade with spatial movements that looked like instantaneous slides. And when there was an opening, that same movement would tug at Kagami’s Device.
She would sense the danger from Dikaio’s trembling and she would quickly slide left and away from her opponent. Then a white wind would fly vertically through the space between them.
Mary was trying to pull her in and trap her.
This was dangerous, but Kagami still had a means of attack. So…
Mary read her opponent’s tactic.
She knew Kagami was powerful and could use seemingly unfair methods, but in this world people faced each other with the giant weapons known as Magino Devices and the battle would be determined by the damage to those Devices.
That meant Kagami would need to destroy Mary with her main cannon.
The rest was simple.
Mary just had to avoid facing her head-on. That was all.
When Kagami charged in, Mary would charge past her on the left or the right. And as soon as they were lined up alongside each other, she tore at the space along the inner edge to…
Macabre, the servant on her shoulder, spun around. How cute. Then Mary’s vision turned around, the scenery rapidly changed, and she was parallel to Kagami’s starboard side.
She fired. She pulled her in.
Kagami’s Device shook violently as it was pulled and tugged in. Its size caused an explosion of mist in the air around it. With a great sound, the drift ice on the ocean’s surface split apart.
Still, the blue and white Magino Device filled its thrusters with light and worked to pull away from Mary. It raised its tip, let the air hit it, and ascended as if riding that air.
But Mary’s cannon-fire reached her.
Two long scars raced along the great sword’s starboard armor.
Mary would not let her escape. She too began to ascend.
“I will not let you escape!”
Two magic wands fought inside the severing walls of white mist.
Kagami worked to reach the position needed to fire her main cannon and Mary pursued her to target her side. Kagami’s secondary cannons filled with noticeable light, but fragments were constantly scattering from her Device.
As if she were caught on a fishing line, Kagami ascended and descended to somehow break free. For a more flexible use of the acceleration system, Dikaiosyne partially changed form. As Mary pursued, her Device’s overall silhouette seemed squeezed in tight as it worked to eliminate air resistance.
The two Devices raced through the white dome, but Mary had the upper hand when it came to movement.
She did not have to fear the battlefield’s outer walls, so a few times, the grim reaper intentionally guided the holy knight ahead of her and then continued turning further and further out and to the left to corner her opponent.
The holy knight accelerated to escape, but…
The greater her speed, the more difficult it was to turn.
While being pursued form the left, which was the inside of the turn, she could only move up or down to escape.
Meanwhile, Mary’s Magino Device took the best position. She focused her annihilation on Kagami’s secondary cannons while having herself sucked in through the gaps that created. She combined defense and propulsion into a single action.
“I have your left side, Brigadier General!”
Mary decided to not even warn her.
So she attacked. Of her nine great scythes, she continued using three to produce the barrier and used the remaining three on the right to secure Kagami.
She captured the great sword on the side.
The great sword fell into the gaps between the annihilation used against its secondary cannons.
The blue and white Magino Device briefly hopped as if drowning and then its speed matched Mary’s.
They were completely side-by-side now. All that remained was to finish this. Mary combined her three remaining scythes into a triple scythe.
“Pierce her, Ira.”
She sent it straight down at the great sword that was captured on the side.
It hit, thought Mary. The invisible blade had slammed down like a giant staple, so the great sword would be unable to resist any longer.
Then sparks of ether light scattered, but…
“She dodged it!?”
Kagami’s great sword had moved forward.
She wondered how, but the answer was right before her eyes.
The acceleration system on the back of Kagami’s Magino Device was fully opened. No, that alone would not have been enough to escape. That left…
“The main cannon!”
The recoilless system used to fire the main cannon had been pointed backwards.
…It can’t be…
The great sword had been running in a half-transformed state this whole time. What if that had not been just to increase its mobility? What if the power pathways had been connecting to reconstruct something?
…Yes, she would go that far, wouldn’t she!?
All of that had given Kagami massive instantaneous acceleration from firing the main cannon.
That would have been enough power to escape.
But, thought Mary. She’s already right next to the outer wall and one wrong move could get the Device itself sliced into.
“I can’t believe her!”
Sparks of ether light had just scattered from the great sword’s starboard side and they were near the outer wall of annihilation. That would suggest that wall had sliced into her, but…
“The annihilation does not create ether light sparks!”
Then what had Kagami done?
“You used your power to repair the damage my attacks had done, didn’t you!?”
Mary had to capture her quickly.
The only way was with her great scythe.
Three were creating the outer walls, three more were locked onto the secondary cannons, and the final three had been combined into a triple main cannon, but she released those three and sent them forward to capture Kagami instead.
…They made it through!
The annihilation pierced through the approximately two kilometers of space between them.
That was the perfect range to pull her in. The holy knight’s great sword lost speed as it was pulled toward the executioner’s scythe.
The rest was simple. She had already caught up to her opponent and she did not need to hold her in place any longer. She only had to swing the scythe, and…
“Pierce her, Ira!”
As soon as she shouted that, the slowed sword fired again.
But not at Mary.
And it was a blank shot that did not fire a shell.
Mary understood what Kagami had done, but her imagination could not keep up.
Kagami had turned vertically with respect to Mary.
She used the motion of her Device being tugged back while moving forward and the recoil of the cannon blast to rotate the five hundred meter Device backwards. The great sword rotated toward Mary like a blow swung from overhead.
In the instant of the rapid turn, the sword’s muzzle pointed Mary’s way.
A great noise soon followed.
The church bell-like ringing was the sound of Kagami’s sword firing its main cannon a second time.
This time it was not a blank.
An actual shell was fired for a direct hit.
The blast of power launched Dikaiosyne away.
It had not lost its forward speed.
The recoil of the cannon blast caused the Device to half rotate once more. This returned it to its original orientation, so the great sword raced along the outer wall. Mary’s Magino Device followed, but…
“So it was a direct hit!”
Due to the initial blank shot, the acceleration system had not been at full power.
…But it should have been effective against such a delicate little Magino Device!
When Kagami looked back, she saw it.
The nine scythes had ruptured in midair.
After the obvious roar of a hit…
A shockwave spread from the Magino Device in every direction.
The air was split, the clouds burst, and the drift ice bounced up.
It had been destroyed. Utterly destroyed.
Kagami had smashed her enemy, but she still put up her guard. She fired her main cannon toward the scattering Magino Device once more.
She fired again on the scattering ether light. But Dikaiosyne’s cannon used physical shells. It was powerful when it hit, but it was weak against fragments like this. The shockwave spreading from its ballistic path caused the ether light to scatter even further, but…
“So it was not enough…!”
“No, it wasn’t!”
That voice was followed by a certain noise.
It was the sound of chains. A chorus of metal chains rang out as if they were racing every which way through the sky.
A moment later, the all-encompassing annihilation walls vanished, bringing into view the bright night sky of what bordered on a white night. Rather than black, the night sky was a dark blue with scarlet at the bottom. The broken field of white down below only continued to spread.
And the wind blew. The ether forming the annihilation walls became a racing wind.
It all gathered at a single point: the point of the sky where the executioner’s Magino Device had been hit and destroyed.
A grim reaper floated there. And below her feet…
She consumed the annihilation walls as fuel and colors of black and red instantly appeared.
The ether light had scattered and re-summoned Mary’s Magino Device.
The fact that the barrier over the Arctic Ocean had vanished was both good and bad news for Hunter and the others.
It was good news because they could see Kagami and Mary’s status now.
It was bad news because…
…The Rank 2 fed on the barrier to re-summon her Magino Device!?
Hunter had seen that girl suddenly summon her Magino Device. If she could do that, then it was hardly surprising she could instantly repair her Device after damage from Kagami’s main cannon. But…
…That’s really bad right now!
According to their data, Kagami’s Device was damaged. Her opponent making a full recovery only made things worse.
But what can we do? wondered Hunter.
Her group could not move and Horinouchi was above the South Pole.
Just as she thought there was nothing they could do…
A rectangular spell circle appeared as a window inside her communications spell circle. It displayed the troublesome glasses guy from the Horinouchi family. A maid with an eye patch stood behind him.
“I have a personal request. Is that okay!?”
“What is it? Just tell me.”
“Very well.” He nodded. “Please have the 7th Fleet’s lunar surveillance FA-18 take off immediately. Send it toward the South Pole, and…”
The 7th Fleet was one of the fleets that America used to defend the Pacific Ocean.
They were asking to scramble one of its fighters.
“Wait, wait! You’re calling that a personal request!?”
Hunter added a “but”.
“You said immediately, right!?”
“Isn’t that what scramble means?”
The next line clinched it.
“Lady Mitsuru has found a solution.”
“Well done, Horinouchi!”
Inside the command center, Koutarou had just swung up his clenched fist to shout something, but he slowly lowered it instead.
Among the maids behind him, the Head Maid commented while giving orders by spell circle.
“Such a shame she stole your line, Head Butler.”
“Th-that’s fine! Her friend’s praise matters more than mine!”
“Very true.” The Head Maid did not bother looking his way. “And if you know how little you matter, please hurry up and finish your work.”
Hunter slapped her cheeks between her hands.
This would work. This would definitely work.
Kagami was not going to give up. Her mentality was completely insane, after all. And Horinouchi would not give up either.
“Yeah, that’s right. And that means…”
A transmission cut in. It did not display a face, but she knew who it was.
“The second in command!”
“Pipe down, Hunter. ..You, pretty boy. That’s Green Cat behind you, isn’t it?”
“Yes, sir.” The eyepatch maid replied with a naval salute. “Long time no see, Blue Bloom. My right eye has ‘seen’ this. There is no doubting it.”
“Hah. My eye can still see too. …Then we have no time. None at all. Isn’t that right? Are you prepared to hand over some information, Green Cat?”
“That’s fine then,” replied the second in command. “A witch’s eye can fly through the sky, but an FA-18 can’t keep up with our eyes.”
“What?” asked Hunter with a tilt of the head.
She could tell they had to hurry, but…
“A witch can’t head out to interfere with a Ranker battle and we don’t have any F-23s with us, right?”
“That just means we have to send this out.”
She looked around and saw a giant form riding up the deck elevator.
With a rumbling, a dark-looking craft covered in angles and flat surfaces came into view.
…That looks a lot like an F-23.
“It’s a YF-22. That’s the prototype that lost to the 23. …But this thing has an arresting hook built into the rear. Of course, it’s meant for emergency use on land and not on a ship, but that’s why I had this prototype erased from the account books for emergencies. This is the world’s only YF-22 made entirely for use on ships. Our technician team likes playing with it, but it has plenty of speed. Its cruising speed is twice that of the 18. Send out a supply plane from a base in Australia and we can make up for all the chatting here and then some.”
The second in command added a “look”.
“You can’t place many divine protections on this thing’s wings. If it’s going to carry someone’s vision, that someone needs to have some skill of their own, Green Cat. We can’t have an FA-18 bring in our lunch like we did back at the Spratly Islands. You’re working with an F-23, right? We’ll link with Atsugi, so move your eye over as soon as you can!”
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