Clash of Hexennacht:Volume2 Chapter 4
Chapter 4: Different Sorts of People
Reality has natural extraterritoriality, doesn’t it?
Hunter immediately summoned her Normal Device.
The ether light and engine noises shook the courtyard forest’s trees.
The leaves were still in their summer colors, but the shaking would have scattered the leaves everywhere had it been autumn.
Her hair fluttered in the wind.
This is like a duel, she thought as she asked the question on her mind.
“Were you waiting for me?”
“Why would you think that?”
“This is too much to be a coincidence.”
“You can think of it that way if you want.”
Mary began to move.
Hunter saw the girl casually hang a plastic bag on a nearby branch. However…
…That was fast!
She had not rushed the action, but there was no wasted movement and it had great speed due to the great reach provided by her height. She had clearly taken fewer steps than would normally have been necessary, but perhaps due to her excellent balance, it looked perfectly natural.
She was not strengthened by any kind of spell. It was pure martial arts.
Once Mary returned to the center of the path, Hunter asked an honest question.
“Are you always like that?”
So she is.
This could be bad. She might know how impressive that action was, but she doesn’t find it strange.
Hunter remembered how suddenly the girl had vanished when leaving the dining hall. She may have been moving “like a normal person” back then out of concern for Hunter’s group and the surrounding people.
“Are you asking for a fight?”
“I believe you are the one preparing to attack me.”
Hunter was Rank 4 and her opponent was Rank 2. That was within the acceptable range for a Ranker battle, but Mary had challenged Rank 3 Kagami and Horinouchi to a battle.
It was out of the ordinary for Hunter to attack now, but there was something she had to say.
“Do you think you can just leave after sending killer intent my way?”
She was referring to lunchtime and now.
She did not know if this meeting was a coincidence or not, but…
“This is the second time.”
Mary was blatantly sending killer intent toward her.
“The first time it was directed at Kagami, but I think you could say I was included in that.”
“Are you asking for a fight?”
Provoking her was meaningless. Mary’s tone and words made that clear, so…
“What if I…”
Just as Hunter planned to ask “am”, Mary continued in her previous tone.
“What can you do with that Normal Device?”
As soon as Hunter expressed her confusion, a few spell circles appeared by her hands.
She looked up and she saw it.
The ram and ether pile had been entirely torn off from the front of the Hedgehog.
Hunter briefly recalled the specs of her Device.
The pile section of her Normal Device had the same super armor and hardness as the Magino Frame. The ram’s armor was thinner, but it was essentially the same as the Magino.
And yet they had been easily torn away.
She initially wondered how that was possible, but the answer was obvious. The Hedgehog servant inside her spell circle was bristling its spines as it looked at the Device.
It seemed to be surprised, so…
…It doesn’t know!!
They knew what had happened, but they did not know how it had happened.
Hunter knew that was a very dangerous situation. Including the fact that she had no countermeasure to take. But…
…Well, knowing that is enough.
That thought filled her with an odd feeling.
Upon seeing the power of a higher Ranker, she felt something beyond surprise or a threat.
She felt impressed.
Mary was puzzled by the casual whistle she heard.
…What kind of reaction is that?
It was a little difficult to respond to. After all…
“What is with you? And after I went to the trouble of lying in wait for you here.”
“Just out of curiosity, what would you have done if I’d followed the path around instead of cutting through the courtyard?”
“I was tracking your location, so I would have cut you off on the southern edge.”
“I see.” Hunter’s eyes moved to the plastic bag hanging from a branch. “You were out shopping, but you spotted me and decided to pick a fight, huh? I’ll admit that counts as both a coincidence and lying in wait.”
Hunter’s tone continued to confuse Mary.
…She seems awfully calm.
“I thought you were the type to fill with animosity and charge at me.”
“Oh.” Hunter clapped her hands together as if in understanding. “Were you planning to defeat me when I did in order to get those two worked up against you?”
The comment came with a laugh. Instead of a mocking laugh it was one of true amusement. “Ha ha,” laughed the Special Equipment Division representative as she raised her right hand.
“Then I’m done.”
“Yeah, that’s right.” Hunter shrugged. “I saw what you’re capable of when you cut my weapon down to size. That’s enough for me.”
“What could you possibly understand from that?”
“I may not understand it, but those two and the people who support me can look into it. The Hedgehog’s got a good memory, you see.”
She spread her mouth horizontally and smiled a little.
“Besides, I gave my Rank to those two. I’m not going to be bait for you, so there’s nothing more for me to do.”
“After how desperate you were to defeat the Black Witch?”
“So you knew about that.”
Mary could only nod.
The Spell Division was linked to the history of witches and few of the witches in it had any attack power to speak of. They primarily followed an older style that turned them into a walking spell book of charms and jinxes from the Middle Ages or earlier.
However, they were second to none in chemical, mineral, environmental, and especially revelation and divination spells.
That was why Mary’s division colleagues used magic to gather information. More than just standalone spells, they would combine their spells with a computer to provide a focal point they could draw the information from.
There were spells to tell you what path to take and spells to tell you who would become your lover, so if you needed to know a specific person’s history or feelings, the Spell Division was where to go.
History was a continuous sequence of information.
Compared to the history of witches, acquiring information on a single person was like collecting a pebble on the roadside. So…
“In that context, I am curious about this change that has come over you.”
“Don’t expect me to say too much. Even I’m confused by some of it.”
“Is that so?”
“Yeah. So how about you-…”
Hunter released her Normal Device.
The ether light scattered faster than Mary’s information had said. Kagami Kagami had absorbed her ether light fragments in their previous battle, so this was likely a countermeasure against that.
That showed she had not lost sight of herself as a Ranker. So…
Mary naturally moved right up to Hunter.
It only took two steps.
Hunter was honestly shocked.
She used her foothold spell and swing-by method for mobility, but even with bodily reinforcement divine protections…
…I couldn’t move sixteen meters in a step and a half without a running start!
It would probably take her two and a half steps. The difference in reach was obviously part of it, but that was not all. The bodily reinforcement divine protections were blatantly over the limit. No one would use that much on a daily basis.
But, she thought. This is the Rank 2.
As Mary leaped forward while leaning forward, Hunter hurried backwards. If she jumped back before Mary could take the final half step, she could put some distance between them. But…
A surprise attack reached her. And it was made with the skill of the Rank 2.
But nothing was off limits for witches. They were originally the people who had been shunned after those in power deemed them heretics. There was no such thing as “no fair” here. She could not fight reality.
Hunter knew she was not the best one to say this, but she sensed something similar to herself in Mary.
She could tell this girl had lived a life in which battle was perfectly normal. In other words…
“Do you belong to a combat family or organization!?”
As soon as she asked that, a chilly sensation ran through her side.
She did not think she had been hit. After all, the sensation did not fully reach the skin. Instead she thought, Way to go, me.
And while she was at it…
“I can see that!”
Just as her opponent had finished her half step and prepared to take the next step, the girl had launched an attack from midair.
Hunter had seen Mary pull her right hand back.
…I need to watch out for the tip of that hand!
Spells could be used without summoning a Frame, so was the chill on her side just now the same as what had torn away the tip of the Hedgehog? It did not particularly matter if those were two different things. After all…
She was in midair, but she was on the way to landing.
Her opponent would have to stop briefly to take her next step.
Hunter dropped her heel down. She used the landing motion of her back step to place all of her falling weight on her heel.
She did not target her opponent’s approaching hand.
She targeted further up, at the wrist.
Her heel gouged into her opponent’s right wrist from above. Or she meant to.
She felt a chill on the back of her dropping right thigh, so…
Hunter made a hook with the heel on her opponent’s right wrist and she rotated it backwards.
Mary was impressed.
…So this is the former Rank 3!
Mary had thrust her right arm forward, but Hunter had stepped on the wrist and launched her entire body backwards. And while spinning around at that.
It was said close-range witches could easily stand on top of a blade during a battle, but Mary had not expected the girl to use her attacking hand as footing during such a high-speed exchange.
She had gotten a blow in on Mary’s arm, and…
…She made a jump without her foothold spell!
Hunter flew through the air.
The rotating path her body took showed no sign of rushing. To leap as far back and as far away as she could, she made a powerful swing of her lower legs and slid them outwards to spin around.
Plus, she had already taken a fighting stance as she fell and she was aiming to make a counterattack.
Mary reached the former Rank 3 as soon as the girl landed.
She made a jab.
She launched her right forearm straight ahead.
Her summer sweater’s sleeve could not keep up, so it exposed her arm from wrist to elbow. The black leather glove was carried with enough speed that the outline of the fingernails could be seen.
Hunter leaned her body forward as she moved back.
Her raised right elbow attempted to deflect Mary’s right hand.
But a tremor of apparent hesitation ran through Hunter’s body.
She then made a decision.
She did not block Mary’s right hand.
She still reflected Mary’s arm, but she used the time lag of the tremor to send her guarding arm to the inner side of Mary’s wrist.
…An excellent decision!
Hunter had not made a mistake.
If her opponent’s right hand was the focal point of her spell…
…Then blocking her right hand with my arm would be risky!
That would be like blocking a blade with her arm.
No, I still don’t know what kind of spell it is, but it’s probably dangerous. I mean, some people launch their spells from their hand, but does anyone do it from their wrist? Hm? But that American wrestler witch I fought back in the States did place a cutting spell on the inside of her elbow for a lariat. Well, she did complain that it was an “Axe Bomber” instead of a lariat, but hell if I know what that means.
So when a brief tremor ran through her body, she had used the time lag of shifting to an attack stance in order to adjust the timing of her guard.
She had been in the middle of back stepping, but she had used the momentum of leaning forward to power the blow coming from her right shoulder.
She used her right arm to guard and parry her opponent’s right wrist out to the left.
Then she sent her right fist toward the center of the girl’s (surprisingly large) chest.
That would make for a counterattack.
She made a change of plans.
She could not make a counterattack. She called off her attack and back stepped away. After all…
Sensing danger in the Rank 2’s movements, she hurried herself by snapping her entire body backwards.
…Will I make it in time!?
A second solid sound rang out between them.
Hunter’s body was knocked backwards, but she managed to hit something herself.
A direct kick from Hunter knocked Mary’s left wrist back.
Hunter used the force of the kick to perform another backflip and place her hands on the ground. Her fingers caught at the mold of the central path’s stone pavement and she leaped backwards while regaining control of her position.
…That was close! What was that!?
While taking her landing position, Hunter felt a mixture of panic and admiration in her heart.
She had definitely almost been hit by some kind of strange attack.
It had not been a jab.
Her opponent had launched a high-speed strike with a long reach.
The danger had come from the tip of the girl’s hand, so Hunter had started by knocking her wrist outwards. Then she had prepared to make a counterattack with her right hand.
Her opponent had done two things in response.
First, Mary sent out her left hand to match Hunter’s counterattack.
It came from further out than Hunter’s counterattack and it was aimed at her face.
Hunter could not see Mary’s left hand because her swinging right forearm was in the way.
…That means the right is a decoy and the left is the real one!
She did not care.
She only had to instantly lean her body forward toward her opponent’s left side. That would move her face below the left hand targeting it.
Her counterattack would then strike Mary’s solar plexus instead of her chest.
Hunter would completely lose her back stepping movement. She had to fully step forward in order to lean her upper body forward like that.
It was a lot like making a full-body tackle.
After making up her mind, she prepared to take the step. But that was when it happened.
Something seemed off about Mary’s left arm.
The left arm seemed positioned to push her opponent’s right hand out of the way, but then its strength vanished.
If that was to push it inwards, Hunter would have understood, but Mary’s arm did not do that. The inner edge of the forearm lost its strength from the tendon and moved away from Hunter.
What was this?
Hunter instinctually understood thanks to her experience in making physical strikes.
When making a high-speed strike, one could not clench their fist before launching it.
One had to relax their hand and arm and build up acceleration by gathering strength starting from the shoulder, the foot, or somewhere else far removed from the point of impact. Only after building up all the acceleration would they clench their fist and make the punch.
So why had Mary relaxed the inner edge of her right arm?
There was only one answer: she was making an instantaneous sweep from outside Hunter’s guard.
Hunter did not know what kind of attack that would be, but…
“The left was the decoy and the right’s the real one!”
In that case, the left jab had been meant to cut off Hunter’s escape by making her lean and step forward.
And the true attack…
…The sweeping right arm!
Hunter immediately made up her mind: no one was stupid enough to use themselves as a guinea pig here.
So she used her forward-stepping foot that was outside her opponent’s field of vision. She made a kick against Mary’s left wrist.
…Will I make it!?
Before her opponent’s sweeping right arm could reach her, she bent backwards and flew low through the air.
Hunter knew she had dodged it.
She flipped once and landed in a low stance.
However, Mary leaped after her.
She was fast, but more importantly…
…What’s with that stance!?
Hunter had just dodged Mary’s sweeping right arm by kicking back off of the girl’s left arm.
Her opponent had just swung her right arm inwards and had her left arm knocked backwards.
In other words, she should have spun a little to the left.
But that was not the case.
Hunter saw Mary’s back.
She had given herself over to the rotation and she used the tornado spin to attack with a right backhand blow.
Her right hand was no longer making a jab.
The backhand’s trajectory was entirely in the sweeping form.
Her right arm drew a crescent moon-like arc as it flew diagonally downwards.
It was coming, but…
Hunter saw something scattering to her left.
It was her bangs. They had probably been cut in the previous attack.
A few tufts had been taken out near enough to the base for Hunter to think, Hey, wait. If I have to cut it all this short to match, it’ll really make me look like a kid! There were no split ends.
Of course, that was not all.
Her uniform had been cut at her right side and left arm.
It was not torn. It was split, as if it had always been like that. And that was despite the Shihouin Academy uniform’s anti-spell defenses.
…First Horinouchi and now her. Are they confusing stat allocation with judging the intent to kill!?
But dealing with the crazies is the police’s job. Good luck, America.
So Hunter gave up on her back-stepping. She did move back, but she slid her feet back while on her toes.
She said it while in the upright stance of American karate.
“Bring it, rookie!”
Mary renewed her opinion of Hunter yet again.
Mary had a high Rank, but that was based on her grades up to this point. Both of them had fought lower Rankers a few times, but they had no experience battling those with similar Ranks.
Hunter had dropped to Rank 4, but that was not due to a lack of skill. She was solidly Rank 3 there. And from what Mary could see…
…She is incredibly nimble with incredible bursts of strength.
More than once now, she had kicked off Mary’s body to dodge an attack. That was likely only meant for emergencies, but it took a lot of skill to do it on a moment’s notice like that.
And now she prepared a combat pose.
It made Mary a little happy.
This had strayed from Mary’s initial plans, but Hunter was no longer saying “I’m done”.
Realizing someone was willing to be her opponent erased the “a little” from “a little happy”.
Mary was happy.
She had moved forward, swung her arm, and had it deflected, but she had used the motion of her other arm to spin around and…
She moved forward again.
Hunter sped up her own rotation.
As she quickly exhaled, she applied the foothold spell and some bodily reinforcements. The battle was not giving her a gap long enough to even instantly summon her Normal Frame from her pool of accumulated ether, so she activated the spells in her “standard” state to do as much as she could. But…
She was glad she practiced karate.
This opponent’s attacks were definitely based in sweeping motions.
When making a jab, she most likely activated a cutting spell on the inner edge of her hand’s tip. But once that jab extended far enough and she could sweep inwards with her arm, the cutting edge extended from her wrist to elbow.
It was a scythe.
It was more powerful when sweeping back as if in an embrace than when jabbing outwards.
It was a difficult spell to deal with.
Why would she make a spell that was more powerful and more likely to hit on the way back?
But Hunter’s close-range expertise as a karate user told her how annoying this technique was.
For one thing, she could not guard against it properly.
She could not intercept the jabbing tip and even her defenses would be sliced through once it began its “reaping” motion. The most she could do was knock the jab to the side with her guarding arms or make an attack of her own to knock the wrist or forearm away.
She could move right up to Mary, but then Mary’s arm would sweep in from behind her and it would all be over.
She might be able to get an attack of her own in, but then she would be sliced into as if by an embracing arm.
The difference in damage between their attacks was huge.
And, she continued.
…Her movements are all so perfect they piss me off!
When it looked like Mary’s long reach would almost mechanically rotate around her body, she would instead make a curving motion. It was like she had made her entire body into a whip.
Plus, even her straight-line attacks like the jabs began by swinging the arm behind her and then launching them up at high speed.
It began with her feet.
She would step with her feet, twist her hips, move her shoulder, and finally swing her arm. Hunter did the same thing, but Mary used her long reach to completely control her entire body and she could link any movement to an attack with her arms. Hunter could not take that lightly.
The acceleration of attacks made with the human body was determined by the number of acceleration points and the muscular strength controlling their reach. Everyone had the same number of joints, so it came down to the quantity and quality of muscles moving those joints.
If Mary could pull off the same speed as Hunter, her extra reach would raise the force behind the blows that much more.
And she was most likely doing just that.
Their speeds were nearly identical.
Hunter took quick steps and her strikes were…
…Oh, they’re completely straight. Well, I am a karate user.
Her opponent would charge quickly forward and her strikes flew in curving arcs.
Hunter intercepted the surefire blade that Mary could freely send in from outside or straight ahead. She moved back and a squealing noise come from the soles of her shoes as she slid freely along the midair footholds her spell gave her.
Ether light sparks scattered from the deflected point.
Mary was using a spell too. Just like Hunter, she had lost a chance to summon her Frame.
That made Hunter a little happy. It meant she was not completely at her opponent’s mercy. Of course, that did not mean she completely understood Mary’s attacks or that her uniform was not being sliced apart.
“That really isn’t fair!”
She said it, even if it was a little late.
“Do those two interest you that much!?”
Mary felt happy as the scattering ether light sparks washed over her.
Her opponent had activated some spells even in this rushed battle with no openings.
This was the American representative. Under normal standards, she was the representative of the world’s greatest military force. That was who viewed Mary as a worthy opponent and was currently fighting her.
It was wonderful.
She decided to answer Hunter’s question, although not because of that.
“Yes,” she said. “I must have those two taking this seriously.”
“And so you’re challenging them to a fight!? What are you thinking!?”
“You don’t understand?” Mary had only one thing to say. “I am saying that waiting for allies is nothing more than naïveté.”
Those words brought an immediate change to Hunter’s expression.
Her eyes widened in surprise, but then her eyebrows rose to erase that look.
Hunter gave up on intercepting.
She kicked off the air in front of Mary and leaped backwards.
Mary was curious about the girl’s actions and the brief change to her expression. It had almost looked like the girl had been angered by her words.
Mary watched as Hunter created three footholds in midair and flipped backwards.
With some distance between them, she landed and resumed her fighting stance.
Her eyebrows were raised and her teeth bared.
“Come on out, Normal Frame!”
With a brief mechanical roar, witch clothing covered Hunter’s body.
When the completed shield spear appeared by her left arm, its tip had been repaired.
She held that weapon at the ready.
“Becoming Rank 2 doesn’t sound too bad!”
…She has excellent ether control.
She was entirely serious. A witch’s version of serious. Mary could sense her anger. And in this world, it was emotion that heated up a Phlogiston Heart.
Her anger made her into a witch.
That furious emotion was wonderful. If one raged and raged and raged, they could change the world. But…
Mary raised her voice as she charged forward.
Hunter saw Mary summon her Frame. But…
The tall figure charging toward her wore black.
Each part was shaped like a crescent moon and yet had a solid presence. The black hat and black cloak had color running through them like red blood vessels.
That combat style was also known as Grim Reaper-style.
It had its origins in the Middle Ages, making it quite old. It predated the witch hunts. It was also associated with war and pestilence, so Hunter, who was raised in America, had never seen it before.
Mary held a triple scythe in her right hand. It looked like a gun at first because three similarly-shaped long scythes were lined up alongside each other and they seemed to extend the silhouette of Mary’s long arm even further.
But that was not all.
Hunter saw something behind Mary and it very much resembled the Device the girl held.
However, it was far larger and the long scythes were arranged in a circle as if to pierce the heavens.
“A Magino Device!?”
This is bad, thought Hunter.
The constant surprises brought by this opponent reminded her of something she had experienced quite recently. Oh, she’s just like that idiot Kagami. Idiots who readily broke the rules could create shocked openings in normal people.
That was the case here.
…What is this!?
“You directly summoned the Magino Frame!? What happened to heating up your Phlogiston Heart!?”
“You don’t get it?” asked Mary. “I am always serious.”
…That’s not an answer!!
Since Hunter still sort of understood what she meant, it likely had to do with the Phlogiston Heart.
That said, the enemy was already closing the distance between them. She may have ignored the Normal-to-Magino step, but Hunter could instantly summon hers too if she followed that step. So she corrected her stance.
She regulated her breathing, prepared to take a step back, and then noticed something.
…The ground behind me.
It was torn apart.
There was a meter wide gouge that continued for a few hundred meters.
Its depth varied from five meters to deep enough to see the ocean below the artificial island.
Hunter knew what had happened.
…A Magino Frame attack!!
Most likely, it had only missed because she had regulated her breathing before moving back. If she had immediately moved back, that would have been the end of it.
By the time she thought “not bad”, Mary was already right in front of her.
Hunter had no ground to step on behind her, but…
As soon as she started her step, light dropped from the sky.
It was a Magino Frame secondary cannon and it fell between her and her enemy.
It exploded and she was thrown into the air.
…I will not let you escape!
Mary did not hold back.
She knew this was when she had to settle the match.
She had created an opening by showing what she could do and she would not get an opening like this again. So…
“Here I go!”
She neatly guided the secondary cannon blast. Ira, her Magino Frame, had some weaknesses with this method of attack, but she was making up for those here. The impact sent her opponent into the air and the blast’s scattered ether would interfere with the creation of any new spells, preventing the girl from using her foothold spell. But…
Mary was acting under the same conditions.
That secondary cannon was meant for use on Magino Frames, so the scattering ether fragments would prevent her from using her anti-personnel spells as well.
However, she could use the ones meant for herself.
So she used an acceleration spell, caught up to her opponent without losing any momentum, and struck with her blade at close range.
She summoned her own servant into a spell circle. It was known as the Grim Reaper type, but she thought the yellow eyes inside the hood were full of emotion and quite cute. But for now…
When she yelled that, the servant raised its scythe and placed an attack spell on her blade. And that blade was the executioner’s scythe.
If the divine protection was placed on the blade itself, the scythe would act as the core and the scattering ether meant nothing. She could not fire it very far, but it was more than enough for a flesh-and-blood opponent.
The high-speed strike reached the girl.
Mary felt clear tactile feedback as a physical blow that returned to her hands.
Hunter was working to control her foothold spell.
She could not get it active on the bottom of her feet in time. That was partially due to the secondary cannon having been fired there. So…
If she opened a foothold spell on each palm, even an idiot could push off of empty air. And she only needed a small push, so the ether disturbance did not matter.
However, she was worried about one thing.
…She’s fast and tall!
Mary had abnormal speed and reach.
Hunter suddenly realized that was two things she was worried about. Well, mistakes like that happened all the time.
Would those things let Mary reach her or could she avoid her?
As soon as she decided it was a gamble, something shot in between the two of them.
At first it looked like a shield, but a closer look showed it was a sword. And…
Kagami blocked Mary’s attack with her Normal Frame.
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